Tag Archives: British High Street

Disruption will lead to innovation in our high streets

The Drum Blog

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced in May 2019 that a new £62 million fund will breathe new life into historic high streets across the country. Really? What’s £62m going to do? Unless there’s a momentous shift by Government regarding the business rate issue no £62m fund is going to fix anything or impact the dire straits we find our high streets in.

But here’s the conundrum. Across the country, people still enjoy going shopping. Shops are not going to disappear and 89 percent of UK sales are still generated through physical retail.

Consumers want high streets and businesses want to be there. We can’t give up on our high streets, but we need to fundamentally disrupt the existing model with ideas that address business rate costs head on.

Reigniting imagination on the high street

We need traditional brick and mortar retailers to be imaginative and visionary to make retail work for them and their customers. We haven’t seen enough of this. There’s been some successes where traditional retail chains have introduced successful in-store experiences, from speaker spaces to free cookery classes, to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere.

We’ve also seen successful buy outs where we see anchor brands amalgamate multiple brands under one roof such as Sainsbury’s and Argos (Store within a Store concept – SiS). This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

Brand collaborations appear to work well, and this is where I think independent retailers need to deploy more disruptive strategies. Surely independents sharing space makes sense from a financial and marketing perspective and works for all collaborations, whether it’s an anchor brand and SiS or two brands in equal partnership.

Let’s take my local high street, where there is a bookshop with a coffee shop, and this unsurprisingly works well. So why don’t we see such partnerships more often with, say, independent clothes and shoe shops hooking up, cook shops and delis collaborating and complimenting one another and butcher’s, bakeries, greengrocers and florists joining up.

With so many consumers now on a personal quest to do what’s good for the planet, collaborations can really work to bring purpose to the fore and give consumers more choice.

The rise of the ethical high street

For people who are ethically minded, they may prefer to visit collaborations that have similarly aligned values for example, butchers, delis and bakeries that are fully ethically sourced or organic or shoe and clothes shops that won’t use unethical material. Delivering a positive, convenient and alternative shopping experience for people for whom these things are a driving factor in their purchasing decisions will provide an incredible customer service and experience that’s missing right now.

I’ve been in the industry over twenty years so I’m not naive enough to think this is easy, but retail is the most dynamic of industries and it needs to do something before it loses its confidence and high streets forever. I believe it requires a major re-think of the whole supply chain from landlords to legal and introducing new innovations like retail matching services. A service that pairs up independent retailers who are looking for high street shop spaces in particular areas.

There are all sorts of challenges – what happens if one brand is doing well, and the other isn’t, if one wants to sell and one doesn’t? But we’re at an impasse where something drastic needs to happen for us to re-imagine the high street. And drastic means disruption and innovation not more of the same.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Innovation in our high streets is a continuous journey

Business Blog

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced in May 2019 that a new £62m fund will breathe new life into historic high streets across the country. High streets lie at the heart of communities but as we know, are under increasing pressure as more people choose to shop online, visit out of town stores and business rates and rents escalate. But are the high streets dying or are they just going through a period of evolution to meet the generational shifts in shopping habits and remain relevant?

Let’s not forget one very important thing, that across the country, people still enjoy going shopping, shops are not going to disappear and 89% of UK sales are still generated through physical retail. The problem is that many brick and mortar retailers have either not listened or been too slow to react to the changing social and economic factors that have impacted their business models.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today as it did then, is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format and Generation X and Z are not ignorant to poor retail.

A belligerent approach only serves to insult your existing and potential customers. That’s why they’ve abandoned trusted retailers and by doing so, they are clearly stating that it’s you not them that’s the problem. This has resulted in a flurry of panicked shop closures, as retailers wake up to the fact that they should have reviewed their estates years ago before calling in the administrators.

So, alongside this and any other Government initiative we need traditional brick and mortar retailers to be imaginative and visionary to make retail work for them and their customers. And I don’t think we’ve seen enough of this. There’s been some successes where traditional retail chains and independents have introduced successful in-store experiences such as speaker spaces to free cookery classes to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere.

We’ve also seen successful buy outs where we see anchor brands amalgamate multiple brands under one roof such as Sainsbury’s and Argos (Store within a Store concept – SiS). This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

The above concept appears to work, and this is where I think retail strategies need to be disruptive. As the pioneer of mail order fashion, reimagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. If we look at their flagship store on London’s Oxford Street it includes brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store.

Surely independents and chains sharing space makes sense from a financial and marketing perspective and works for all collaborations, whether it’s an anchor brand and SiS or two brands in equal partnership. Let’s take my local high street, where there is a bookshop with a coffee shop and this unsurprisingly works well. So why don’t we see such partnerships more often with, say, independent clothes and shoe shops hooking up or cook shops and delis collaborating and complimenting one another.

I’ve been in the industry over twenty years so I’m not naive enough to think this is easy but retail is the most dynamic of industries and is tough. It requires a major re-think of the whole supply chain from landlords to legal and introducing new innovations like retail matching services. There are all sorts of challenges – what happens if one brand is doing well, and the other isn’t, if one wants to sell and one doesn’t? But we’re at an impasse where something drastic needs to happen for us to re-imagine the high street. And drastic means disruption and innovation.

With a staggering 2,481 stores disappearing off the High Street in 2018, the opportunity to split the overheads in tough economic times impacted by changing shopping habits, this is a successful combination for both retailer and shopper. For retail, appealing to all generations is the way forward, enhancing the environment in which we want to shop in and the customer journey association to brands. Retailers need to stop feeling their way in the dark. The solution is there. Look around.

To read the full article please visit London Loves Business.

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Brand collaboration is the key to a high street retail revival

The Drum Blog

The high street is dying, or so we keep hearing from all angles of the media – but is it?

No. But it is evolving to meet the needs of generational shifts in shopping habits which retailers must adapt to in order to give consumers a desirable experience. Those that respond positively to shoppers and adapt, appreciate the increased value this change offers for potential survival.

Retail is no longer there to serve the customer, it’s the customer who decides if retailers remain relevant to the high street.

Those retailers that refuse to listen are deserving of their fate. It’s not a surprise or the fault of external factors when a major retailer, who failed to adapt, calls in the administrators. Social and economic factors are not going to ‘improve’ as they are proving to be the norm – it’s just how life is now – therefore boards of major retailers need to stop procrastinating and adapt fast.

With 89% of UK sales still generated through physical retail, the desire to shop on the High Street is still prevalent, retailers need to adapt creatively to capture a slice of those sales.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format. That’s why they’ve abandoned trusted retailers and by doing so, they are clearly stating that “it’s you, not them” that’s the problem.

Clashing styles

From traditional retail chains to independents and pop up stores, the ones that ‘get it’ are doing so to great effect. Whether it be through introducing speaker spaces within the store, to conducting free classes or work zones to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere. By also introducing other brands to coexist alongside your brand, is winning hearts and minds. Retail is changing. Changing positively but perhaps not fast enough to decrease the failures of trusted retail brands and reduce the vacant units on our high streets.

Debenhams tried this by introducing Patisserie Valerie cafes within their stores which proved fatal for both brands, partly due to their incompetence to manage their finances or understand the consumer. You don’t ‘accidently’ misplace £40m neither do you introduce a traditional patisserie into an already stale retail format such as Debenhams, in an attempt to entice new and younger shoppers. The opportunity to revive its fortunes could be taken from its past when it introduced designer names to its stable with huge success. Those designers are now only known by a generation who are 40+ and irrelevant to the shoppers needed to keep the Debenhams brand relevant on today’s high street.

With Arcadia group also struggling reputationally through the alleged actions of its high profile owner and also financially, they have a huge task ahead to transform. Reducing your retail footprint by closing stores to cut costs is not the solution, change is. But is it too late to turn some of Arcadia’s brands around?

Maybe not. The larger ‘flagship’ TopShop stores do it well by adopting shared spaces that offer consumers other brands or services like piercing or cosmetics to create an immersive shopping experience. Unfortunately, Topshop don’t seem to translate this successful format as well across the regions in the UK. Translating this ‘experience’ model across the entire estate is essential to relate to consumers who don’t necessarily have the means or desire to travel to a ‘flagship’ store.

Placing short term profit over evolution is short-sighted as this approach is somewhat ironic, a lack of investment makes you stale rather than revolutionary, making a brand irrelevant to today’s shopper.

Retailers assemble!

Those retailers who are winning have amalgamated, rather successfully, multiple brands under one roof that complement each other and often work in concert, to offer convenience for the shopper. Successful examples include the Argos purchase by Sainsbury’s and introducing Argos shop in shop (SiS) within larger Sainsbury formats and in 11 stores to include the desirable Habitat brand, which was snapped up by Argos several years back and now revived through the Sainsbury’s acquisition. This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

As the pioneer of mail order fashion, reimagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. Brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa can be found in the Next Oxford Street store and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store. Unsurprisingly this approach works for both anchor brand and SiS. With a staggering 2,481 stores disappearing off the High Street in 2018, the opportunity to split the overheads in tough economic times impacted by changing shopping habits, this is a successful combination for both retailer and shopper.

Those who complain that they can’t make retail work need look no further than their competition who are getting it right through understanding the zeitgeist. Shopping habits have changed with generational shifts and the glory days many failing retailers harp on about are not going to make a reappearance. It’s up to retailers to carve out a niche and appeal to the generations who now prefer both the physical and online aspects of retail, but are also seeking convenience and above all an experience.

Experience to try, taste, smell, learn, question, dwell to be part of something that transcends generations and the stereotypes of what ‘Retail’ should be. Retail can be whatever you want it to be.

Successful retail evolves to remain current and relevant to its audience. A retail renaissance is what we need.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Retailers, It’s time to be relevant to consumers

Retailer Blog Photo

What’s happening to the British High Street? It is facing record levels of store closures in the first half of 2018. According to research by PWC, on average, 14 stores a day, 4,400 in the first 6 months, are closing their doors with 85,000 jobs lost in the first 9 months of this year. The industries most affected by the closures are fashion and electrical stores. Not far behind them are pubs and restaurants. There are few brands that haven’t been affected with coffee Shops and ice cream parlours accounting to the small amount of store openings.

As a nation of shoppers, why are we turning our back on the high street?

It is predicated that due to the large amount of choice now in the consumer’s hands the way they shop will change. Online shopping is predicated to account for 25% of non-food sales by 2022 which is a 5% increase on what it is today. The consumer now has the ability to shop across a variety of platforms from the high street, e-commerce, m-commerce and social commerce.

The choice to shop this way will increase through generations that grew up with the internet at their fingertips coming of age, working and having disposable income to spend. The generation that grew up with ordering something in the evening and having it delivered to their door the next day may not see the attraction of the high street. As shops close their closest functioning high street might get further away and less appealing to travel to when after a few clicks their product is brought to their door. The impact of online is a self-fulfilling prophecy and once the heart of a community is gone, it’s very difficult to entice it back as many councils are finding Public Houses, Restaurants are also affected due to digitisation – if you can order Italian food to your door are you going to leave to go to a restaurant? In-Home Leisure – If you have a huge TV/Projector, top of the line speakers, streaming service are you going to pay £30 to go to the cinema? Or go to watch the Football in a pub? Supermarkets interestingly do not seem to be affected at the level, perhaps due to people buying their own food to cook at home in line with changing dietary trends and therefore becoming more conscious of eating out?

The impact of the changes being posed may be too late. So what’s being done?

The introduction of a review for all retailers in England with a rateable value of £51,000 or less, intended to cut their business rates bill by one third is a positive step realising an annual saving of up to £8,000 for up to 90% of all independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes.

In some locations this is perhaps too late when you consider the vacant properties on the diminishing high street. The PWC research highlights that London has the highest change between closures and openings with Wales having the lowest. The numbers might be big for London but when you consider the size of some of the high streets in Wales compared to those in London -22 shops could be the closure of a whole High Street.

It also does not help those retailers, multiple or independent, with a larger footprint. For stores which anchor the high street such as Debenhams, HoF, M&S etc. the reduction in business rates for these retailers by local authorities, delivers a longer term tangible wealth to the community.

“This government constantly refers to a ‘dividend’ for all, which is used entirely in the wrong context, as there’s no dividend for communities whose high street have already been decimated and resemble ghost towns.”

What can retailers do for themselves?

The industries that were least affected by the closures such as Ice cream parlours and coffee shops could be down to the public still enjoying the little pleasures in life. It could also be that the brands have realised that consumers are now looking for personalised experiences. Millennials seek out experiences and value experience over material items. Those retailers serving the Instagram generation are offering them locations, products and experiences that are picture worthy and have bragging rights. Acknowledging these trends and the new way people shop are perhaps the key differentiators that have kept them from closure and continue trading successfully.

Although the numbers, for many, paint a negative picture for considered purchases there is still time for them to turn it around. Our research has highlighted that over a third of shoppers still prefer to go to bricks and mortar shops to buy their technology. There are still consumers who want to feel and touch products before purchasing. They are also looking for advice from staff and an immersive experience which some retailers do recognise however sadly many do not and are destined to failure unless they acknowledge and change soon. The investment made in retail by many brands is treatment to this consumer desire.

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