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“The high street is under siege like never before” - Why retail stores need to keep up with digital era

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Wednesday, 25 September 2019. Posted in Online, Sales & Marketing

High streets have seen their biggest loss in decades. Nearly 3,000 stores have shut in the first half of this year with thousands of job losses across the country

“The high street is under siege like never before” - Why retail stores need to keep up with digital era

High streets have seen their biggest loss in decades. Nearly 3,000 stores have shut in the first half of this year with thousands of job losses across the country, including top retailers such as House of Fraser, Toys R Us, Marks & Spencer and more. But what is even more worrying is the thought that high streets could be a thing of the past. A recent survey has revealed that a majority of people fear their high streets could be wiped out forever.

An overwhelming 61% of shoppers believe their local high street stores will disappear in the next ten years, according to a new survey by KIS finance.

Fashion outlets, restaurants, cafes, value shops and bars are expected to be the first to shut amid big-name store closures set to take place this year, including Patisserie Valerie and Debenhams.

Cities Northern England and Scotland have been hit the hardest hit by store closures since last year, and top cities facing the brunt include Leeds, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Bradford.

“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,” James Child, Retail Analyst at EG said.

There are several other factors that contribute to store closures, Mr Child said, and it is mainly down to consumers’ ever-changing shopping habits.

Shoppers are preferring to purchase products online, store rental space is increasing, consumers are becoming more cost-efficient and retailers are unable to keep up with changing demands are some of the factors, Mr Child adds.

According to the survey, 64% of people said they preferred to shop online while 75% said they like to shop both online and in store.

However, the younger generation appeared to avoid the high street altogether with 18% of 25 – 34-year-olds saying they only shop on the web.

Not to panic, according to Mr Child, as high streets are not dying but more so "in a state of transition”.

"There needs to be a reduction in the amount of retail space, replaced with other mixed-use schemes and residential elements to encourage locals to engage in their local areas. The high street of tomorrow will be easily accessible, safe, clean, and able to enjoyed by all,” he added.

The poll, which surveyed 1000 retail consumers across the country, asked shoppers what they thought could improve their shopping experience and help revive Britain’s dwindling high streets once again.

41% felt shops needed more staff to ensure quicker retail experience while 34% said stores needed a clearer stock check in.

Meanwhile, 27% said 24-hour opening hours would allow for more flexible shopping times and 26% said self-checkout services would ensure an overall better shopping experience.

“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,” Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance said.

“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,” Holly added.

As technology advances, shopping continues to become more accessible to all. It is only a matter of time before retail outlets makes a full switch to online platforms, and in a growing digital age, it is essential retail stores keep up with the trends.

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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