The earth is made of plates or tectonic plates to be correct. Years of silence but events lead to these plates moving creating ground tremors, earthquakes and destruction on many levels to then fall silent again.
Whilst chewing my pen, reading various news sites on the demise of the high street, I immediately saw a correlation between my degree days as a budding geographer and the volatile state of retail.
With yet again a week of change in the high street we can all make assumptions and guesses on why this is happening and certainly looks to be speeding up and no sign of slowing down.
The retail environment is in a state of flux and no surprise that online retailers are now enjoying the good times. Those offering a ‘clicks and mortar’ approach enjoying both bites of the cherry for now. As consumers interact more and more with their chosen retailer online, for some, online will be the only location to do business.
Shopping habits are changing and the removal of friction in the buying process is key to creating an easy to shop environment for shoppers. We don’t like waiting, we want it now with the least path of resistance.
Anyone who has frequented a McDonalds will have noticed the self-ordering / checkout. Easy to order and pay with very little waiting time. You are hungry and there for the burger, not the wait!
We live in the ‘now’ world, we don’t want to wait but we expect a good experience with it. It’s moving to be more of a considered experience visit where the mundane task of ‘general shopping’ can be done online – we still like getting out and visiting towns but now for different reasons and we need different reasons for the visits.
Interesting survivors of this current downward trend are cafes, hair salons, nail bars, craft beer bars and 2nd hand bookstores. They are seeing an uplift. It’s obvious – these are things that in the main you can’t buy online. Customer service has never been so important and I’m sure will be the focus of many independents in the forthcoming months and years.
The high street isn’t over, it’s just changing. Out of town shopping areas are popping up where the national chains dominate – there clearly is demand. Polarisation of shopping experiences where congregations of national chains are gathering in purpose-built new locations.
Here lies the opportunity for the town center high street to be the home of independents. Those independent retailers selling product, services and the key word here is ‘Experience’ that is relevant, future-proof and profitable.
Experience is everything. Altrincham made great changes with the introduction of the market hall and the food area – this has had a positive knock-on effect on the other stores in the vicinity. It’s developing a destination of choice that prompts wide interactions with the surrounding retailers.
I was recently in Llandudno and visited the Mostyn Champneys – a rich and busy concentration of national chains on a Retail Park away from the main High Street where they have been replaced by independent shops and equally as busy. Of course, this is a seaside/holiday town but we can see the same shift closer to home at Handforth Dean, Trafford Centre and other proposed retail parks around the area.
Recalibration is happening and driven by our own shopping habits and expectations. We should be braced for a tectonic shift in the high street and normal service will be resumed and normality will return with a new and fit for purpose high street offering.
Shrewsbury is known for its independent retailers.
When you visit the Shropshire county town of Shrewsbury, shopping should definitely be on your list of top things to do. Did you know Shrewsbury’s independent retailers outnumber big chains by almost half?
Personally, I look forward to seeing more independents. Visiting towns and locations, finding new and innovative products, talking to experts and physically engaging once again.
Both will live in harmony but for the time being, we will continue to see casualties as the tectonic shift finds its new position.