Walking through the High Street in my local town today I noticed yet another store up for sale. Going in to speak with the shop owner I heard again the sad tale of out of town shopping centres and online sales taking away the trade that used to be theirs.
The High Street as we know it is fast disappearing.
Where are the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the grocer, the newspaper shop and the hardware store? Are we ever going to see the return of the High Street filled with shops and businesses or is it gone for ever?
A report last month by the Department for Communities and Local Government in the UK wrote that “Internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres are not going to go away – they offer the convenience and choice that customers welcome. So for our high streets to thrive they must offer something new and different”.
Figure 1 shows the decline of high street spending in recent years and the growth of non-store sales.
The following statistics are even more telling:
- Between 2000 and 2009 the number of town centre shops fell by almost 15,000 with an estimated 10,000 more losses since 2010!
- Nearly 1 in 6 shops are vacant
- High Street footfall has fallen by 10% in the last 3 years
- In 2008 the Competition Commission found that the number of specialist grocery stores had declined significantly since the 1950s: “The number of butchers and greengrocers declined from 40,000–45,000 each in the 1950s to fewer than 10,000 each by 2000. The number of bakeries declined from around 25,000 in 1950 to around 8,000 by 2000 and the number of fishmongers declined from around 10,000 to around 2,000 over the same period.”
- Supermarket outlets now account for over 97% of total grocery sales.
- e-commerce accounted for nearly half of all retail sales growth in the UK between 2003 and 2010, as internet access has become more widespread.
- M commerce – sales over mobile devices – have increased more than 500% in the last two years.
Related: The Changing Mindset Of The Consumer
As the graph below shows the trend toward internet and m commerce is only going to continue to grow.
It’s not surprising that the outlook of many local business owners is so bleak. After speaking with several business owners on the High Street I came away with the conclusion that the only hope our high streets have of surviving in the future is to change.
What can the High Street Business Offer?
According to Mary Portas in The Portas Review December 2011
“In a world where the sheer sophistication, speed and scale of both the web and the major supermarkets will always be pushing new boundaries, you’ll never be able to compete sustainably on price. You’ll never be able to beat the sheer efficiency of the web. You’ll never be able to compete with the range and diversity of the major multiples and supermarkets. Where you can compete and need to focus your efforts is in three core areas: Experience, Service and Specialism.”
Starting with the customer experience and designing the product to fit into it. How can you design the experience for the customer in such a way that they just have to come and visit and whilst there want to buy something? What unique experience can you offer that is unavailable on the internet or in the impersonal out of town shopping centres.
The new selling!
It is important for the High Street Business to truly connect with and really know and care for their customers. To become the true expert who can advise the visitor. Social media is relationship marketing online. What can the High Street Business offer to build relationships with their customers on their premises?
Instead of offering similar products to everyone else High Street Businesses need to become true specialists in their field. Dare to be different and attract customers from miles around.
Related: The High Street Needs To Go Online
Yes, the High Street as we know it is disappearing but when businesses start placing more emphasis on providing what the customer of today actually wants and catering to the way they like to shop there is no reason why it cannot become a vibrant hub for the future.
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Image: “crowd of people rushing on the street in intentional motion blur/Shutterstock“