When I first started spending time in England, one new phrase that was completely unfamiliar to me was the High Street, which the OED defines as “very generally, the proper name of that street of a town which is built upon a great highway, and is (or was originally) the principal one in the town.” By the 1950s, metonymic noun and adjective forms had developed, referring to the shops not just on the High Street proper, but on surrounding streets as well, and the goods that could be found in them. From a 2000 article in Elle: “High-street queen Karen Millen launches her first range of spectacles this season, so nab yourself a pair for that librarian-chic look.”
The closest American equivalent, I suppose, would be “Main Street,” but it’s not really the same thing, and besides, to the extent Americans shop in brick-and-mortar stores anymore, they don’t go to High Street or Main Street shops, but instead to big-box stores like Home Depot and Office Depot located in suburban strip malls.
Imagine my surprise, then, to pick up the Philadelphia Inquirer recently and read, “Retail rents on Walnut Street have gone up 33.8 percent in a year, the sharpest annual increase of all ‘high streets’ among U.S. cities…” True, high street was in quotation marks, but it was there.
It turns out the article referred to a report from the real estate company Colliers International. High street is sprinkled all over the Colliers website, but, surprisingly, it’s an American company, based in Seattle. However, a deepish dive into the site reveals that the company originated in Australia, merged with a Canadian company in 1976, and moved to Seattle only in 1976.
So it would appear that Colliers’ use of high street is something between an appendage and an affectation. I would say its chances of catching on here are low.