Is the High Street Dead?

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Christmas Shopping. It’s certainly not one of my specialist subjects and while I do not wish to delve into the areas that I find so frustrating yet are so easy for many others, I’d rather spend my spare time in the fells with the dogs, however, I feel duty-bound to take some responsibility with the procuring of presents for our three little children.  

The big day is looming when Santa delivers to eagerly awaiting children all over the world and here, I find myself, late at night scanning the numerous technical devices in our house, searching for that super-rare Unicorn gift as wished for by our highly particular four-year-old.  

After scrolling websites for hours whilst constantly clicking away to banish the pop-up advertisements and social media-influenced commercials related to my search engine entries, it becomes apparent that the very Unicorn can be purchased at a neighbouring toy store only 20 minutes away! This now has me thinking, how reliant are we on technology for Christmas Shopping and is the future of the High Street dead? 

During the pandemic, the significant surge in online shopping resulted in an equally significant downward trend in High Street footfall. Ultimately this was greatly influenced by the numerous lockdowns as High Street shops have been forced to implement risk management and cost reduction strategies such as downsizing or even closing stores whilst aiming to improve the online experience for the shopper to retain customer dedication. Needless to say, this also presents opportunities for departments to advertise the availability of their products, introduce marketing campaigns and create promotional offers to a much wider accessible audience. 

Which got me thinking, while the High Street is faced with increasing numbers of store closures (often from big brands that once drove customer footfall) and higher costs to serve a reducing customer base, some businesses are reveling in the opportunities the pandemic has provided them. Firstly, SME’s who previously would have struggled to open a store in a highly desired location are now able to because of advantageous market factors, such as reduced rent and larger spaces available for the likes of festive pop-up shops and new market entrants. Furthermore, discount stores such as Poundland announced earlier in the year that they are to open around 30 new stores in the UK and Ireland over the coming years in areas such as retail parks and High Street locations where greater space and locations are available. 

According to Retail Week:1 the likes of Amazon, eBay, Argos and Curry’s capitalised on the discounting bonanza by attracting millions of online shoppers during the recent Black Friday sales, however, the number of customers visiting their websites slipped substantially from the year before. 

Some online shopping sites witnessed a hefty reduction in online traffic ranging from 18% for the likes of Ebay and Amazon to a staggering 69% in one instance for boutique stores such as the clothes retailer Joules. But what does this really mean and is there light at the end of the tunnel? Data recently taken demonstrates that while the public footfall has reduced on the High Streets due to Covid and other influences, overall card transactions exceeded pre-pandemic totals in shopping centres and retail parks. 

According to Springboard: 2 Footfall will divert predominantly to smaller high streets that are more local to shoppers’ homes and are less congested, and to retail parks, many of which have a wide range of high street retail stores that are large and spacious, combined with open-air parking that is free of charge. To the defence of the smaller market town High Street shops, this is fantastic news for supporting SMEs whilst driving the local economy and demonstrating a shift in consumer behaviour.  

Without doubt, online shopping has enormous benefits and ultimately supports those who are not at times able to visit the High Street or who are indeed isolating. However, having seen the impact that Covid, self-isolating, and online shopping has had on the High Street, makes me realise that the smaller High Street needs us more than ever right now. Legend tells that us that Unicorns bring good luck and positivity, my local High Street will certainly make one little girl’s Christmas wish come true and with this faith restored, it will do for years to come. 

Merry Christmas everyone! 

To contact 4C Associates, book a meeting with us here.

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