The high street, but not as we know it

Published on: 14th December 2018

The decline in the UK’s retail property sector has been a widely reported one, with a reduced footfall on high streets across the country, which has largely been attributed to consumers altering their purchasing patterns and shopping more online.

Whilst you cannot argue with the ease, convenience and relative unrestricted nature of online shopping, we believe that high street retailers should view this shift in perceptions as an opportunity and not as a threat.

With the spectacular fall of BHS, Toys R Us and Mothercare there have been several high-profile losses to the high street recently but it is the stores that remain that tell the most interesting story.

With consumers revisiting what they view as a typical shopping experience, retailers must ensure that they adapt to meet changing demands. As a retailer in today’s climate you must present yourself as a leisure destination rather than solely focusing on shopping.

There isn’t an industry or shop category that epitomises the ability to overcome these difficulties better than the humble bookshop. Cast your mind back 10 years and bookstores were closing with many experts predicting that the traditional bookshop was dead.

Waterstones took the lead and revisited and reimagined the conventional idea of a bookshop. Through partnerships with Costa, Starbucks and now their own brand, Café W, they offer more of an experience and encourage customers to spend more time in store and not rush as they peruse the books on offer, much like you would in a library.

This concept, which has been replicated across several retailers has since been coined ‘experential retail’, where shoppers do things besides buying, in a store in which stuff happens in addition to the selling.

The success of such a concept proves that it is no longer enough for traditional brick-and-mortar stores to compete on price and quality, it is their physical space and customer experiences that must set them apart.

Ultimately, commercial property is a people business and retail is no different. The high street is currently undergoing a drastic change and retailers must ensure that the consumer and their demands are at the heart of their business. Those that don’t offer something different to an online shopping experience run the risk of falling behind the market.

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