Save the High Street Campaign (The Company of Master Jewellers, 2018)
You may have noticed the closure of some retailers as well as the rise of the food industry in certain locations when walking on any High Street in London. Places that used to represent the central hub of retail and consumer activity are now becoming leisure spaces together with coffee shops, trendy restaurants, health clubs and tobacconists/vaping shops.
According to the Local Data Company (LDC) more than 5,855 stores closed at the end of 2017 in the UK as fashion retailers, shoe shops, estate agents, newsagents have been driven out by the rise of e-tailing – Electronic Retailing. Furthermore, House of Fraser, a British department store across the UK, has announced a few days ago the closure of 31 of its 59 shops around the country. An average of 11 stores per day were opened, but also 16 were closed every day in that same year in the UK. (Retail and Leisure Trends, 2017).
Some large retailers like Harrods and Selfridges believe in the idea that physical stores should sell both a product and an experience, becoming a kind of ‘attraction’ to their consumers. But this idea requires investment of both time and money, which not all the retailers can count on. This phenomenon is leading brands to be less interested in high streets locations but more in having warehouses to keep up with the consumer delivery demands online. So, is this the death of High Streets? Will we be creating a future where no one leaves their homes anymore? With everything online, will shops cease to exist? Will we still be socialising in person?
Some closing shops in UK (Metro, 2018)
With more than 53 million online shoppers in the UK and an increase of 23.2% last year (Euromonitor, 2018), e-commerce has changed consumer’s demands towards shopping and lifestyle bringing to the point where online sales has risen while store sales declined 6.1% last year. For this reason, shopping has been reinvented to adjust to what consumers are looking for offering brands that are more authentic, local, stimulating and social; prioritising values over product under the concept of ‘experience more’.
By selling an experience and adjusting to consumer’s behaviours, stores will be capable of engaging their audience while creating loyalty among their brands[s1] making people wanting to come back. An example of this can be seen in Apple stores- a brand that has always focused in providing their customers the Apple experience while changing the face of retail: trying the products before purchasing them, while providing spaces for customers to interact with each other.
Apple Store (International Business Times UK, 2018)
Other stores have been adopting these strategies of creating experiences and meeting the public demands by opening spaces inside their shops for leisure. Next, a British multinational retailer has recently signed a deal to open restaurants as part of their stores across the UK which can be considered a relevant step towards becoming a ‘full service’ shopping experience. Stores like Marks & Spenser, John Lewis (or Peter Johns) and IKEA have also adopted this concept in most of their stores.
All these strategies lead us to the theory that UK High Streets are not dying; they are evolving. While e-tailing may have taken the consumers from the High Streets for fashion, accessories, electronics and other retail; it has brought another purpose for using these spaces such as grocery stores, restaurants and pubs and even beauticians. As Mary Portas, an English retail consultant and broadcaster states, that High Street landscape will become spaces for social interaction (The Morning Advertiser, 2018). Spaces that provide social arenas for all kind of people to meet connect and express themselves with their community.
In the era of the Internet of Things, that leads us to a shift from technology-push product to data-driven service; shops will need to adapt to what customers are looking for by using technology to stand out. Rebecca Minkoff, a fashion store, has designed her retail spaces taking into account the new technologies trends making the experience of the shopper feel more futuristic while removing human interaction that made them feel uncomfortable (Engadget, 2018). Through a screen, customers are able to search for an article, request for help and even order a drink. These is what I believe is a good example of how the future of retails are evolving; when adapting and repositioning is part of their concept.
Rebecca Minkoff (YouTube, 2018)
Engadget. (2018). How Rebecca Minkoff uses tech to make her fashion stores stand out. [online] Available at: https://www.engadget.com/2016/12/25/rebecca-minkoff-tech-stores/?guccounter=1#/ [Accessed 12 Jun. 2018].
International Business Times UK. (2018). Moped gang raids Apple Store in London riding scooters through glass doors and wielding hammers. [online] Available at: https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/moped-gang-raids-apple-store-london-armed-hammers-1647071 [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
Londonlovesbusiness.com. (2018). The survival guide for high-street fashion retailers | News | LondonlovesBusiness.com. [online] Available at: http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/business-news/retail/the-survival-guide-for-high-street-fashion-retailers/20524.article [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
Masterjewellers.co.uk. (2018). News Feed - Save the High Street Campaign Launched - The Company of Master Jewellers. [online] Available at: http://masterjewellers.co.uk/news-feed/950/save-the-high-street-campaign-launched/ [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
Metro.co.uk. (2018). All but one of American Apparel's UK stores will close for good | Metro News. [online] Available at: https://metro.co.uk/2016/12/23/all-but-one-of-american-apparels-uk-stores-will-close-for-good-this-christmas-6341827/ [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
morningadvertiser.co.uk. (2018). High streets to become 'social places' predicts retail expert Mary Portas. [online] Available at: https://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/Article/2018/01/03/High-streets-to-become-social-places-predicts-retail-expert-Mary-Portas [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
Retail and Leisure Trends. (2017). [online] Available at: http://www.localdatacompany.com/ [Accessed 2 Jun. 2018].
Sky News. (2018). Fitness and food replacing fashion and finance on high streets. [online] Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/fitness-and-food-replacing-fashion-and-finance-on-high-streets-10834234 [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].