It seems that many revel in the discussion surrounding the future of the high street. The passion behind people’s predictions and the interpretation of trends are understandable since the high street has been a staple of the UK’s towns and cities for a very long time with the presence of brick-and-mortar retailers playing a significant and valued role among local societies.
In recent years, however, and in the wake of the international pandemic, the high street’s future has seen a dramatic shift of focus with many wondering whether or not retailers will be able to overcome the significant hurdles that COVID and the resulting lockdowns created.
The idea that online shopping is slowly replacing traditional retail is not novel. It was, however, revived during the pandemic’s initial outbreak due to the necessity of distanced and safe shopping experiences. Since then, however, and in the wake of relaxed health restrictions, shoppers have demonstrated an eagerness to return to the high street.
This support for brick-and-mortar retail is positive and e-commerce is now actually being used as a complementary service for many high-street retailers who are able to combine online orders with click-and-collect services to increase their sales. This popularity is partly due to the customer preference for efficiency and convenience, with click and collect orders being preferred over delivery since it allows for products to be obtained more quickly, even if this necessitates the customer going to collect it themselves.
To meet the changing demand of customers, as well as further integrate online shopping and alternative reality concepts into shop spaces, retailers are shifting their focus away solely from products and increasingly toward experiences.
This means interior shop spaces are being redesigned, with shop shelving and furniture being used to accommodate events and interactive retail elements instead of entirely product-based displays. For the customer, this means being drawn into a retail venue not only to purchase products but also to interact with a brand. Retailers such as Lush are already leading the way with this concept, with many of their high-street shops also offering beauty and therapy sessions.
Boutique And Concept Stores
There is an evident shift away from retailers trying to dominate the high street and more toward smaller retail concepts. This means that instead of large shop spaces, hosted by singular brands and offering an array of items, there is a greater likelihood that familiar brands will host more focussed stores with a limited range of products.
This idea is already being trialled by brands, such as John Lewis, and allows them to create targeted spaces, those curated more specifically to the local area, and with less risk, as well as fewer overheads. For the customer, this is a positive change, since it will create greater diversity on the high street. This does, however, mean that retail parks and other large retail spaces are likely to slowly disappear over the coming years.