Is the high street still viable for business?

It is a worry for many products based businesses. It doesn’t take more than a stroll down the local high street to see that the landscape has changed. Where there used to be a waiting list for units, a report by Local Data Company and PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that in the first half of 2019 a whopping
1,234 shops shut.

Many shoppers don’t enjoy the mishmash of betting shops, vape stores and discount pop-up shops. They miss ‘how things used to be’ in terms of their high street. Which gives hope to retailers who want to revive the high street. 

But it isn’t just small retailers that felt the squeeze when it came to the decline of the high street. The UK lost many of its biggest retailers. Here are a few you will likely remember well Maplin, BHS, Mothercare and Toys R’ Us. 

One of the biggest contributors to the fall of the high street is the massive move to online shopping. 

It is faster, easier, and you can do it from the comfort of your couch. What’s not to love? For a consumer, it is about fast delivery, discounts and the ability to spend hours and hours in one store – without it closing. 

It is hard to compete with that… but not impossible. 

Some retailers see an impact on their sales when it comes to things like technology in the store, till-free shopping and the experience of learning or getting hands-on with products. 

There is a reason that stores like LUSH see people spending decent money when in the store. It is about the experience of being in the store, trying things out, talking and then choosing. 

We asked leading retail merchandising firm CJ Retail Solutions their thoughts on taking the time to understand how customers interact in-store: “The customer experience makes a big impact here and it’s clear that investing in retail merchandising and also the wider psychology of store visitors is worth its weight in gold”. 

However, it might already be too late without breaking down the current high street structure and needing a huge funding injection to rebuild. Many small businesses just can’t afford to cover the huge business rates, rentals and the cheaper online stores as competitors. Which is why we don’t see many small stores stay for long. 

And, even if those cash injections were readily available, the average wage in the UK doesn’t allow for a lot of disposable cash, leaving shoppers with less to spend freely. 


Is there an answer?

The implementation of out-of-town malls from bigger developers has pulled many shoppers out of the high street and out of town. They have better parking, more options and food and drink courts. All appealing and worth the trip for consumers. 

But in general city councils aren’t ready to give up their beloved high streets, and many have implemented a range of methods to try and stimulate the high street once again. Lower rates, shared spaces, and SME business loans can only stretch so far, though. Collaboration between the communities, some creative thinking and a love of the high street might just be enough to revive it. 

The high street is still viable for some businesses, but the support of the community and the local council will play a big part in how sustainable that is longer term. And, it would be beneficial for those businesses to make sure that their online presence is strong enough to complement the physical store too.



Photo by Jason Villanueva from Pexels

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