How Can High Streets Fight Back Online?

Life is becoming increasingly hard for British shopkeepers as more and more people shop online and because of the low value of sterling, In 2017, 5,855 shops closed and of these 1,700 stores were part of successful retail chains. In reality, this equates to 12 shops closing EVERY day. Fashion shops and shoe shops were hardest hit as people shopped only for essentials and travel agencies and estate agents succumbed to fierce competition on the internet. Although there are no figures yet for 2018, the year began with announcement that the mega toyshop Toys “R“ Us would be closing and that Mothercare, Homebase, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams would all be closing some of their retail stores. Only last week NEXT announced that whilst its High Street sales were down, its online figures had grown dramatically.

What Has Caused the High Street Downturn?

With the changing face of the High Street which was once the hub of each town and village, retailers are faced with the dilemma of what to do to increase footfall and save their businesses. Whilst some retail experts say that shop keepers must study their customer profiles more closely and respond to what their customer requires, others believe that the way ahead is online shopping. Studies show that the most popular time to shop is 8.00 p.m in the evening when most are home from work and relaxing with their Ipad. An increasing number of people are placing greater importance on quality family time too and shop online on weekday evenings as they are working all week and want to enjoy family activities at the weekend.

The High Street is certainly facing a period of transition and independent shop keepers are proving to be both creative and innovative in the ways they are rising to the challenge of keeping their customers and resisting competition from the internet. There are currently a number of really good initiatives including reward schemes and 'pop-up shops' taking place in various parts of the UK and some even use the internet to their own advantage!

A while ago a great new website called MyHighSt was launched in Wells, Somerset by Loaye Agabani who owns the town's toyshop. He canvassed other independent retailers for support and launched the first e-commerce that sells products only from independent shops. More than 50 signed up to the idea which includes a butcher, stationery shop and ladies' boutique and Loaye also got ten local businesses involved too. The website offers a click n' collect service to customers and includes a loyalty token scheme. Loaye Paganini hopes to launch the scheme in another 15 local towns this year.

How can the high street promote more foot fall?

In Bristol, two young shop owners have launched the 'YourStreet' Gift Card to encourage purchases from independent retailers. The card can be bought online and sent to the lucky recipient who can use the card in a selection of local shops. It is hoped that this scheme will become national and certainly shop keepers in High Wycombe, Bury and Ipswich have expressed great interest in the scheme.

In Hereford the OpenHighStreet has seen local food producers taking on the food giants. Customers can go online to buy meat from their High Street butcher and cheese from the local producer all on one website with a single checkout and delivery. Shropshire and Gloucester will be launching similar schemes this autumn (2019).

In South Manchester the TAG! not-for-profit loyalty card costs just a fiver to buy and gives the cardholder access to loads of deals, discounts and rewards at various independent retailers in the South Manchester area including florists, opticians and garden centres. It is certainly proving successful and the fact that small businesses are working closely together is certainly keeping the local economy buoyant and the High Streets busy.

In Margate in Kent, all the independent coffee shop owners are working together on a joint loyalty card which rewards customers with a complimentary 8th cup of coffee when they have purchased eight cups from participating coffee shops. All of these initiatives have one aim which is to save the demise of the British High Street and ensure that it once again becomes the social hub of the town.

As well as these measures, another way to increase the footfall in the High Street is to bring such facilities and doctors' surgeries and day care centres right back into the heart of the community once again, encouraging people to meet socially in the town centre once again – but the infrastructure must be there with good cheap parking, good public transport and pavements that are pushchair and wheelchair friendly.

The debate continues...

Article provided and written by Chris Steven. This content has been provided to us by the writer. Whilst believed to be factually correct, we cannot accept responsibility for content contained within it.