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Christmas is coming: 3 ways retailers can ensure a more profitable festive season

Simon Wilson, HPE Aruba UK & Ireland, discusses how the High Street can leverage technology to boost the bottom line this Christmas...

With news that Selfridges have already opened their festive bauble shop, it seems Christmas is now front of mind for retailers. And for bricks-and-mortar stores battling against depleting footfalls and decaying consumer confidence, these Christmas trading figures will be crucial. 

Last year, the high street’s struggle to drive Christmas sales was blamed on online retail. However, there is more to the story of physical versus digital than meets the eye. As we edge ever closer to the festive season, retailers need reminding that e-retail is not the enemy. It is the customer who is changing the retail landscape, as consumer behaviour is changing at an unprecedented rate which is creating new demands and pressures for offline and online retailers alike. 

In fact, digital platforms such as Amazon are now looking into an in-store approach with Amazon Go, and internet sales still only represent under 25% of overall retail sales, signalling the continued consumer appetite for an in-person shopping experience. 

Brick and mortar retailers have enormous opportunity to leverage the distinct benefits of traditional, in-person shopping in ways that digital sites can only dream about. This Christmas, the winners will be those who are able to transport the digital world into their stores in order to create convenient and memorable shopping experiences. 

So, considering 85% of consumers still prefer to physically purchase products in-person, here’s 3 ways retailers can use physical stores to their advantage in the digital age and help drive Christmas sales…

  1. Bring the shopping experience to life 

Whilst traditional retail businesses based on brick-and-mortar stores urgently need to update their business models, they also need to start recognising the unique advantages their physical locations offer – and then using technology to enhance them. 

After all, unlike shopping online, brick-and-mortar stores can offer the possibility of in-person interactions with retail staff, as well as unique shared experiences that transcend traditional shopping routines. Take Virgin Holidays, which has opened a new chain of retail concept stores, with the aim to create an immersive environment and allow shoppers to try out various elements of the Virgin Holidays experience. Here, customers can test-run upper class seats in the mock-up of a Virgin Atlantic cabin, or visit the virtual reality installation, which takes people on a ‘rollercoaster’ of global Christmas holiday destinations.

This idea of ‘reverse showrooming’, when consumers research items/holidays online and then visit a store to try it out and receive expert advice rather than browsing in store and then going home to buy online, has been mirrored by Mango. The fashion retailers have leveraged technology to offer a similarly personalised service. Many of their fitting rooms now include radio frequency identification technology (RFID), which offers up recommended or co-ordinating items when a customer scans something. 

It’s not just about providing an immersive experience, and retailers must also utilise technology to provide shoppers with the most convenient visit possible. With daunting Christmas shopping queues in mind, Zara have launched self-service kiosks, which will no doubt streamline the purchase experience. 

The more retailers can play up these three elements, the more they can win back the hearts and minds of consumers, using the opportunity of in-store interaction to their unique advantage.

2. Break down siloes to connect shopper behaviour online and in-store

If retailers invest properly in infrastructure that breaks down internal siloes, they will be able to offer consumers a truly omnichannel shopping experience. Until recently, there was no connection between what a shopper bought or looked at online and their behaviour in-store. But knowing who the customer is, where they are, and their preferences is critical. To do this, retailers are using analytics, location, and context, and seeing rising sales as a result. 

The benefits of blending online services with in-store operations are exemplified by the rising popularity of cross-platform Click & Collect options. Consumers want to shop when and where the want, and the advent of Click & Collect has proven itself attractive to customers who desire more flexibility from their delivery options.

This service combines the convenience of internet shopping (easily comparing prices and filtering through what you want), with the in-store ease of collection, all the while driving people into physical stores at the same time. In fact, this service drives impulse buys, with research showing that 24% of European shoppers make unintended purchases while picking up their items in store. As retailers face backlogs of deliveries in the build up to the festive period, this alternative option can help ensure customer expectations are met. 

By aligning back-end operations with front-end customer service, and using technology at every step of the supply chain, the retail industry will start to get a single, multi-channel view of its omnichannel customers. This is exactly what it needs to offer the seamless, streamlined experience that consumers now demand.

3. Gather deeper insight into stock and inventory

Tied to the above point, part of developing insight into a customer’s in-store behaviour includes collecting data around stock and inventory.  At present, the structure of many retailers fails to live up to the needs of modern customers. Stock is typically siloed, and allocated to different pools that serve the physical shop, ecommerce, pop-ups, and wholesale. But this kind of approach is no longer fit for purpose in an omnichannel world. With growing customer demand to access any item through any channel at any time, retailers need to have a precise picture of their inventory 24/7.

To achieve this, and ultimately increase profit margins and retain customers, retailers must improve their data systems and make better use of inventory tracking technology. Investing in technologies such as radio-frequency identification and electronic shelf labels will enable retailers to monitor stock levels in real-time, and ensure they know exactly what they have in at any given time. Not only will this avoid customer disappointment in out-of-stock items but it maximises efficiencies, saving the retailer time and money in the long-run. 

The retailers who thrive during the Christmas build up, will be those that are able to reimagine and redefine their stores for the digital age. If technology is embraced and integrated in a way that empowers employees, serves customers and improves the bottom line, retailers can look forward to a profitable Christmas. 

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Stores being too hot or cold among the nation’s biggest shopping gripes

Stores being too hot or cold, the returns counter located on a different floor and overpowering smells are among the nation’s biggest shopping gripes.

A study of 2,000 Brits found the aspects of modern retail spending which irk us the most, including the layout of a shop changing, broken contactless card machines and even no Wi-Fi in store.

For shopping online, 45 per cent named slow web pages to be their biggest bugbear, alongside products looking different when they arrive and having to wait for refunds.

But while clothes shopping in-store irritates 31 per cent of the nation, just one in 10 feel the same way when purchasing online.

An annoyed 57 per cent even said they have walked out of a shop without buying what they went in for, because they were so fed up.

Mark Howley, UK CEO of Starcom, which commissioned the research as part of it’s ‘Future Tensions in Retail’ report said: “This research defines a cultural shift and insights into consumers for brands around the future of retail.

“Shopping should be an enjoyable experience with interactive areas to enhance this and we predict the way people shop will develop greatly over the next few years, as it already has done up until now.

“Some brands are already delivering this kind of enhanced experience for consumers.

“Topshop recently launched an immersive experience in its flagship store encouraging customers to touch displays, take pictures and relax on the soft furnishings.

“And Samsung’s new experiential store in Kings Cross allows customer to experience its products, attend masterclasses and provide the consumer with key information by the tech experts.”

The study also found one in five have had a disagreement with a member of staff due to being annoyed when shopping, and this has led to three in 10 deciding to shop online instead.

A sixth admitted they feel stressed and frustrated when clothes shopping specifically, while one in 10 find themselves ‘bored’.

But more than a third view shopping as an ‘experience’ and aspects which make a great store were found to be attractive interior, plants and even ‘Instagram-able’ spaces.

It also emerged that a quarter of shoppers would like to see apps which allow you to scan items to avoid having to wait at the checkout, while one in 10 would even like to to have AI-powered shop assistants.

And with the average shopper starting to feel ‘impatient after queuing for 10 minutes, it’s no surprise 44 per cent would like to see waiting times improved in the future.

Another two in five want prices of products lowered.

More than a third would like to see packaging to be more environmentally friendly with one in five taking into consideration whether items are produced ethically when buying them.

A quarter of those polled, via OnePoll, said while they want to buy new things, they also want to help the planet and be sustainable.

The study also found that almost a third believe shops are ‘important’ to their local community and three in 10 think the traditional high street filled with independent stores will return sometime in the future.

To encourage this, nearly a third believe encouraging online retailers to put events on in store or host pop-ups will help it thrive.

But if they could only shop one way in the future, 26 per cent would opt for online while just 24 per cent would opt to go in-store.

This is due to a sixth liking the idea of not having to leave the house, more than a third enjoy having online discounts and 37 per cent believing they are able to brands they don’t have in stores nearby.

On the other hand, two thirds like to actually see a product before purchasing, three in five want to be able to hand pick items and one in five enjoy talking to staff.

Howley added: “These stats only reinforce that brands need to start offering an even more thrilling and enjoyable experience to the shopper, aside from just a good product.

“Brands need to think about the customer retail journey, what can you offer them to get them in store that you can’t get online?

“You need to think about what you can offer in terms of exclusivity, building hype around product drops, offering the Instagram photo-opp, from a fancy wall to some type of entertainment, or even an immersive sensory experience.”

PURPLE TUESDAY: High Street businesses ‘losing millions’ by shunning disabled consumers

UK businesses – including High Street brands – are losing millions of pounds of revenue every year by turning their backs on disabled consumers.

That’s according to a poll of people who consider themselves to be disabled, conducted by Purple, the disability organisation behind Purple Tuesday.

The survey found that more than half of respondents are struggling to make purchases of a product/service due to their disability. Disabled young people (aged 16-24) fare the worst – more than three-quarters of them say they have found it difficult to buy goods online or in person due to their disability on more than one occasion.

Four in five disabled customers say businesses could do more to be accessible and more than half (56%) agreed that improving staff understanding about different disabilities would encourage them to spend their disposable income, estimated to be £249 billion a year.

Respondents state that retail is the most accessible business to purchase from, followed by banking and hospitality/leisure/restaurants.

The research comes as businesses and organisations prepare for ‘Purple Tuesday’ on 12 November, a day which celebrates UK companies that are improving the customer experience for disabled shoppers. Major names taking part include Sainsbury’s and Intu.

Mike Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Purple, the disability organisation behind Purple Tuesday, said: “While many UK businesses and organisations are stepping up to the mark and making the changes needed to improve disabled customers’ experiences, far too many are not.

“This is a huge mistake, not least because by turning their backs on disabled shoppers, they are losing out on millions of pounds of revenue every year.

“It should simply not be the case that one in two disabled people struggle to make purchases online or in person. Small changes can make a big difference to the customer experience; we want to help organisations have the confidence to improve their services for disabled people.”

Disabled consumers told pollsters that inaccessible and unusable locations, poor customer service and a lack of understanding about disabilities were the main reasons they struggled to spend their money. 

Over 1 in 5 said that hiring more disabled people would make them more likely to make a purchase and some stated that “wider aisles” or “lighter doors” would have the same effect. The findings support previous research, which shows that less than 10% of organisations have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers.

The potential of the purple pound is clear – disabled people say they spend on average £163 on retail per month, £117 on banking, £98 on travel, £69 on insurance, £78 on hospitality (such as at restaurants or on leisure activities) and £19 on gym or health activities. 

Organisations that register for Purple Tuesday will benefit from free resources from Purple on topics such as website accessibility and customer service training. In exchange, Purple asks that business make a minimum of one commitment to improve the customer experience for disabled people. 

For more information on Purple Tuesday, please visit www.purpletuesday.org.uk.

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay

High-Street

The future of UK retail – Brexit and beyond

By Tejas Dave, Founder and CEO of eBusiness Guru and Avasam

It’s tough out there for retailers right now. Brexit is causing all kinds of concerns – just this week we heard of Domino’s spending £7 million to stockpile ingredients.

Whether you’re a leaver or a remainer, just the uncertainty is causing havoc with spending. In July, average retail sales to July rose by just 0.5% – and that’s a new record low.

Brexit aside, it’s still tough. UK spending growth is at a low, and companies are entering administration regularly – more than we expected possible. Even household names we might expect to be doing well are demanding reductions on their rent. Even Primark, which continues to thrive, is demanding rent reductions – though this is in response to those with CVAs. 

Many media outlets are decrying eCommerce for the decline of the high street. eCommerce businesses can provide lower prices due to lower overheads, and greater convenience, with next-day home delivery in many cases. But eCommerce has been growing for over twenty years – it’s hardly a surprise that was sprung on the high street overnight. Not only that, some retailers continue to grow – Primark makes huge profits without even having an eCommerce presence. And consumers are in fact still spending – eCommerce sales are expected to exceed £184 billion in the UK in 2019.

So what’s the solution? With greater overheads, without cutting margins razor thin, how can the UK high street survive? Even without facing these difficulties, retailers needed to look to their future, by taking their cue from eCommerce. Going forward, eCommerce isn’t the enemy – and in fact, could be the saviour of the UK high street.

Taking a blended, omnichannel approach will help customers remain engaged with retailers. Even Amazon is working to create offline locations – just look at Amazon Go! We’re not saying that all retailers should try to emulate their business model – clearly that isn’t possible. But by increasing offerings and services, bricks and mortar retailers can remain popular with customers.

These partnerships can be mutually beneficial between online and offline retailers. Where high street locations aren’t economically viable for businesses, creating partnerships can enhance the customer experience and profits all round.

Consider a small high street retailer who partners with an eCommerce company that aligns with their brand values. They might keep very limited stock for certain items, with more stock available to be DropShipped directly to customer homes. The customer sees the item and decides to buy it. The store then places the order and takes payment. Their eCommerce partner sends the order the same day, to arrive the next day.

The customer benefits from the arrangement because:  

·       They’ve made sure they want the product

·       They can speak to an advisor

·       They know their order was placed successfully

·       They don’t have to put their card details into a website

·       They know which day their order will be delivered

·       They don’t need to be confident with using technology

This arrangement is great for customers who prefer to shop offline. Both retailers benefit – and chances are, the customer bought another item while they were in-store too. Even if they didn’t it’s likely with a positive experience, they’ll return to make further purchases.

If the retail location can process returns too, they see increased footfall and in-store sales. Customers receive an enhanced experience from both brands, and the eCommerce company receives more sales, faster returns and reduced costs.

Further application of technology can provide bricks and mortar retailers with more options to increase footfall. Click and collect sales are expected to account for 61.2% of spend by 2022. Whether that’s through partnerships or through lockers in-store, that’s a lot of potential to work with.

Partnering with eCommerce businesses isn’t the only way retailers with outlets can diversify their offerings though. Consumers are becoming accustomed to ordering a wide range of products in one place. High street retailers can capitalise on this. A reciprocal arrangement might provide an EPOS point showing stock a partner across town has. The point might have various options – for click and collect, home delivery and different payment options.

There isn’t a magic solution to save the high street. But the government is aware, and is looking at changing the planning system to help. Brexit will happen, one way or another. But with the right application of technology, and thinking creatively, retailers can adapt and secure their growth into the future.

About the Author

Tejas Dave, Founder and CEO of eBusiness Guru and Avasam, has been helping eCommerce businesses worldwide since 2010. Evasam is a platform that allows wholesalers and sellers to collaborate. Tejas is revolutionising the shipping industry and creating a new level of financial stability with the aim of creating 5,000+ jobs within the UK. Tejas is using technology and automation to provide solutions to e commerce challenges by removing the limitations that are currently placed on what and where people can sell.

Summer retail footfall declines, says BRC

Uk retail footfall declined by 2.9% in June, compared to the same point last year when it declined by 0.9%.

According to the latest British Retail Consortium & Springboard data, on a three-month basis footfall decreased by 2.4%. The six and twelve–month averages are at -1.3% and -1.7% respectively.

Meanwhile, High Street footfall declined by 4.5%, following from the increase of 0.1% in June last year. The three-month average decline is 3.5%.

Retail Park footfall increased by 0.1%, following from June 2018 when footfall decreased by 0.4%. The three-month average growth is 0.5%.

Shopping Centre footfall declined by 2.4%, following June 2018’s decline of 3.4%. The three-month average decline was 2.7%.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief-Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Poor footfall this June led to a significant fall in the sales figures for the month. High streets were worst hit by the relatively poor June weather, with shopping centres also performing badly, however, retail parks managed to buck the trend. Last year’s World Cup and glorious sunshine set a high bar, which 2019’s slow consumer spending and Brexit uncertainty failed to live up to.

“High streets and shopping centres across the country need to invest in improving their consumer experience if they wish to see these footfall numbers reverse. Unfortunately, high business rates, as well as a raft of other public policy costs, mean there is little left over to spend on these improvements. If the Government wants to see more investment on the high street then they must reform the broken business rates system and give firms the means to make the necessary improvements.”

Diane Wehrle, Springboard Marketing and Insights Director, said: “The drop in footfall in June of -2.9% is disappointing; it was much more severe than the -0.9% drop in June last year and takes the rolling three month average to -2.4% versus -1.5% in 2018.

“However, given the exceptional and ongoing disruptive political and economic period we are facing coupled with unprecedented structural changes in the retail sector, we might actually expect consumer activity to have taken an even greater hit.  In reality, the drop in footfall of -1.4% for the year to date is still an improvement on the drop of -2.1% over the same period last year, so in context footfall performance has shown more resilience over the year to date than expected.

“It was clearly high streets and shopping centres that bore the brunt of consumers railing back on their shopping trips, whilst retail parks maintained their customer base.  However, whilst footfall in high streets across the UK dropped by -4.5% in June, the continuing and growing demand from consumers for experience meant that in regional cities – which by virtue of the sheer breadth and depth of their offer means they can deliver on experience – footfall was far more resilient, declining only very marginally by -0.6%. 

“And the same rule of ‘experience delivering results’ also applies for shopping centres.  Whilst footfall in shopping centres across the UK declined by -2.4% in June, in the largest centres of more than half a million sq ft the drop was just -0.5%, and only -0.1% in those largest centres with a strong dining offer.  So it is clear that consumer demand is polarised between convenience and accessibility provided so effectively by retail parks, and consumers’ craving for experience, driving them towards larger retail destinations.”

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Revealed: The High Street shops Brits want to see

The perfect high street is home to a Post Office, green grocer, butcher – and boozer.

Britain’s traditional main shopping thorough-fares are facing stiff competition from the boom in online shopping and the emergence of huge out-of-town malls.

But the majority of us still have a perception of what the High Street should be able to provide, with a decent bakery, a good DIY shop, and independent clothes outlet all making the list.

An energy provider, restaurant and barber were also hailed as a must, along with a supermarket and shoe shop.

However, just eight per cent of the 2,000 adults polled currently do the bulk of their shopping locally, preferring to drive or use public transport to top up at larger shops and supermarkets.

And while eight in 10 do make the effort to use their local High Street, many think it lacks the outlets they require to get everything they need from one trip.

Three quarters said they were worried about the decline of their high street, and 32 per cent said the retail outlets which are left, such as betting shops and beauticians, aren’t
what is needed.

Researchers also delved into the reasons why the local high street is being neglected by so many – and found one in three avoid it amid a worry goods are generally ‘more expensive’.

Bill Bullen, CEO of smart energy provider Utilita, which carried out the research to celebrate the opening of its second hub in Southampton, said: “As this study shows, there is a real desire for the high street to remain a fruitful and central part of any town or city; Brits like the idea of having one place where they can access all their products and services.

“However, not enough people are shopping on the high street and this means many businesses are finding it unsustainable and are therefore closing down.

“If people want to see their local shopping area do well, they’ll need to invest a little more time and money in the businesses currently there.”

The OnePoll.com study also found other shops adults are keen to see locally include record shops, vegan shops, and jewellers.

Furthermore the average adult visits their local shopping area twice a week, but spends just £23 in total in the process.

One in three aren’t impressed with the shops, while expensive parking puts off three in 10 shoppers.

Limited choice is a factor for four in 10 and busy Brits often find it more convenient to shop online.

However, given the opportunity, shoppers would prefer to buy something from a ‘real person’ than via the internet, and four in five love to converse with shop workers when purchasing something in-store.

Bullen added: “Our high streets are important economic hubs, the small and micro businesses – thousands of which we supply – on them forming the backbone of the UK economy.

“But they are more than this; they are the beating heart of communities across the nation.

“It’s why we want to support high streets by launching a national roll-out of Utilita energy hubs following a successful trial venture in Gosport, Hants, in 2018.

“Our Southampton hub launched just days ago, and similar stores will open in Edinburgh, Derby and Bradford – to name but a few – over the months to come.

“This will have long-term benefit for us and the communities we serve, in addition to giving customers the face-to-face service they crave as Utilita brings energy back to the nation’s high streets – in every sense.”

SHOPS BRITS WANT ON THE HIGH STREET
1. Greengrocers
2. Independent clothes shops
3. Baker
4. Butchers
5. Handyman / DIY
6. Record shop
7. Shoe shop
8. Chain clothes shops
9. Post Office
10. Luxury clothes shops
11. Newsagents
12. Gluten free / Vegan shops
13. Restaurants
14. Pubs
15. Energy / utility providers
16. Supermarket
17. Jewellers
18. Coffee shops
19. Barbers
20. Charity shops

UK’s most resilient town centres revealed

Cambridge as been ranked as the UK’s most resilient retail location outside of London, followed by Bristol and Guildford.

The data has been published as part of FM provider Cushman & Wakefield’s annual UK Town Centres – What’s Next? report, which analyses the performance of 250 town centres since the start of the financial crisis.

The data is based on 24 economic, demographic and retail property metrics, and highlights the evolving role of the UK’s town centres. 

In 2019, the report has found a clear correlation between ‘shopper mission’ and town centre vitality.

For example, as consumers become more mobile and less reliant on physical retail shops, expectations are changing. Cushman & Wakefield says these missions generally fall into one of three categories: 

  • large destination, or experience orientated visits, 
  • purpose shopping that is focused on specific purchases, and 
  • community-based convenience trips. 

The report asserts that retail locations that do not align with at least one of these key missions will need to repurpose to remain relevant.

In the 2019 rankings, Bristol’s has leaped forward, rising from 9th to 2nd to sit behind Cambridge, which kept the top spot it claimed in 2018. The Top is rounded out by Guildford, Exeter and Oxford, respectively.

“The towns within our top 10 are navigating the fast pace of change best and offering visitors a variety of reasons to keep coming back,” said Amy Gibson, Retail Analyst at Cushman & Wakefield.

Image by Steven Iodice from Pixabay

Latest BRC data paints grim picture for the High Street

Retail has shown its biggest sales decline on record covering the four weeks from April 28th – May 25th, 2019.

Sales decreased by three percent compared to the same period last year, which had then increased by 2.8 percent from 2017, making it the steepest like-for-like decline since December 2008.

Over the three-months to May, Non-Food retail sales in the UK decreased by 1.1 percent both on a like-for-like and on a total basis. This is below the 12-month total average decrease of 0.4% percent, while food sales increased by 0.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.9 percent on a total basis.

All records exclude Easter distortions, caused by Easter falling in different months in subsequent years.

Discussing the findings, Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British retail Consortium, said: “With the biggest decline in retail sales on record, the risk of further job losses and store closures will only increase. While May 2018 offered almost unbroken sunshine, topped off by the run up to the World Cup and the marriage of Meghan and Harry, May 2019 delivered political and economic uncertainty. Food sales dropped for the first time since June 2016, with further declines in clothing, footwear and outdoor goods.

“With retail conditions the toughest they have been for a decade, politicians must act to support the successful reinvention of our high streets and local communities. Business rates remain a barrier, preventing many retailers from investing in their physical space. We have a broken tax system, which sees retailers paying vast sums of money regardless of whether they make a penny at the till, and yet the Government is failing to act. The legislation is falling behind the technological revolution.”

“April may have provided retailers with some light reprieve thanks to Easter, but May’s staggering fall of 3% like-for-like is a stark reminder of the industry’s ongoing issues, which for many require urgent attention, said Paul Martin, head of retail, KPMG.

“We are of course comparing this month’s growth against a stellar May in 2018, but even the 3-month average – which softens the monthly volatility – demonstrates that achieving growth in retail remains a real struggle.

“The bank holiday weekends have given rise to the added interest in furniture and homewares, as shoppers set about making home improvements. However, the weather did little to convince fashion-minded shoppers to refresh their seasonal wardrobes.

“The extremely low growth online is real cause for concern, especially with almost a third of all non-food sales today being made online. This trend has continued to manifest itself over the last year and requires real focus from the retail community.”

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

24-hour service and self-check out key in-store experiences for Brits

61 per cent of Brits are worried that the High Street will disappear completely over the next ten years due to the increasing number go big-name retail store closures.

Research by finance specialists KIS Finance, which surveyed 1,000 British consumers, revealed:

• Food and beverage, value and fashion brands are predicted to be the biggest victims of the high street due to online competition

• Convenience is key factor that affects our shopping habits – if local high streets had free parking and easy accessibility, consumers would be more likely to shop in-store

• Northern cities and Scotland have been worst hit by store closures so far, but people anticipate many more to come

“It is quite likely that there will be a continuation, if not an increase of the negative headlines in retail,” said James Child, retail analyst at EG.

“The raft of CVAs and administrations in the sector has culminated in an expected 1,600 store closures across the UK, with over 18 million square foot of prime retail real estate vacated. When we break down the events of 2018 there are some trends which appear to be continuing into 2019 – due to fragile trading conditions and economic uncertainty.”

Child concluded: “There are certain sub-sectors that will face more pressure than others. The fallout from department stores will continue at pace, following the problems with House of Fraser last year, and now with the future of Debenhams at risk. Food and beverage, value and fashion brands will come under more strain as over stretched markets begin to weed out weaker offers as retail Darwinism bites.”

When asked what would tempt them back to the great British high street, the top answers from Brits were:

• More staff to ensure that the experience is quicker (41 per cent)

• Clearer stock check in store (34 per cent)

• 24-hour service so that you can shop at any time (27 per cent)

• Self-checkout service to avoid queues (26 per cent)

After asking consumers what they think the high street will look like in ten years, it seems that consumers are worried that independent stores won’t exist. The list below runs from most likely to least likely:

  1. Restaurants

2. Coffee shops

3. Second-hand shops

4. Bars

5. Fast food restaurants

6. Retails chains e.g. department stores

7. Clubs

8. Cinemas

9. Banks 

10. Travel agents

11. Independent retailers

As part of its research, KIS mapped out which cities had been hit the hardest by the major store closures of the last year, including those announced already in 2019 such as M&S and Patisserie Valerie.

This revealed northern cities such as Leeds and Glasgow had been hit far harder than their southern counterparts. The top cities impacted were:

  1. Leeds

2. Glasgow

3. Aberdeen

4. Bradford

5. Cardiff

6. Doncaster

7. Leicester

8. Manchester

Discussing the findings, Holly Andrews, manning director at KIS Finance said: “With store closures flooding our newsfeeds recently, we were interested to find out what the future holds for the high street and how consumers’ shopping habits might affect retailers’ footfall. It is obvious from our research that people do still like going into store to shop, but it just isn’t as accessible as online shopping is. 

“To save the high street many retailers need to ensure that they are thinking innovatively about how to draw customers in with clearer in-store stock checks, more staff and extended hours during busy periods. 

“The reason why so many retailers are struggling with their stores is because consumer shopping habits are changing and the high street needs to change with it, creating a more community led atmosphere with more accessibility and variety for everyone.”

GUEST BLOG: Could Google help our High Streets?

By Mediaworks

Time does not seem to be the best healer when it comes to the plight of UK High Streets, with major retail losses making headlines in many national newspapers.

In 2018, Toys R Us and Maplin stores were vacated, and trade ceased. Even the infamous discount stores did not survive unscathed, as Poundworld closed its doors for the last time.  

More than 28 multi store retailers went into liquidation in 2018, and these ill-fated stores have set a precedent. Music retailer HMV seem to have set the tone for 2019, being the first to announce that they were facing financial difficulties earlier this year. 

Elsewhere, digital sales in retail have more than tripled in the last 10 years, with online spending equating to 18% of all sales in the sector. Stock availability and an extensive range of delivery options are partly responsible for the surge in e-shoppers, with supportive user journey’s and simplified checkouts sealing the online splurge for many. 

Some pessimistic experts have predicted that High Streets will be a thing of the past by 2030, so we must act imminently to save our beloved shops. But could retail find an unsuspecting ally in the form of search engine giant, Google? 

Here’s how Google could help to revive our humble high streets:

Omni-Channel Experience for the High Street

Implementing the omni-channel nature of e-commerce into retail stores seems near impossible, but a London start up, Near St, are curating digital displays of stock from shops and making them available online. It will enable shoppers to visit the store online prior to them taking to the street, saving time and avoiding any wasted journeys. 

A Digital Town

Many businesses across the nation are already embracing Google, using their ‘Google My Business’ tool to create a profile for themselves with useful information such as a contact number, opening hours and address. Almost half of all Google searches last year had local intent, showing the necessity for the service. 

Back to the Future

The conventional shopping trip is still a big revenue contributor, with 82% of sales taking place offline. The task at hand for the high street is to optimise customer experience, making it feel as convenient and straight-forward as online shopping. Companies such as Marks & Spencer and EE are already acknowledging the shift in value of the in-store experience, while technologies such as AR and VR are becoming increasingly commonplace, with Google’s own product ‘Google Cardboard’ pioneering the integration of simulated reality in retail. 

The UK High Street is not oblivious to its own losses, as major retailers are constantly evolving their online marketing strategies and adding digital elements to their in-store services.

How will you save your brand?

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