How local retailers are defying the high street’s ‘demise’

Reading the headlines, the UK’s high streets sound, at best, depressing. At worst, pretty desperate. The figures second this outlook: 1,400 retailers have gone into administration since 2010, reports Marketing Week.

But then certain headlines come along that make you think twice. Last month, for example, the BBC reported that music retailer HMV plans to open ten new stores this year, including a new London flagship store.

The Covid-19 pandemic was seen by many as the final nail in the coffin for the high street. Restrictions meant that more people relied on online shopping during lockdowns, while bricks and mortar stores faced the challenge of closures, limited footfall, and reduced sales. In the midst of the first lockdown in 2020, a third of all retail sales were taking place online.

But are we focusing too much on the negative headlines? After all, the ‘high street’ isn’t a single entity, it is made up of multiple sectors – all of which have experienced varying levels of misfortune (or in some cases, fortune) over the past 18 months.

Retail parks, out-of-town shopping centres, city centres, and small town high streets have all performed very differently from one another. But one has performed better than the rest: the local high street.

The high street vacancy rate has remained at 12.5% since 2013, suggesting high streets across the UK have been continually reinventing themselves. What have in the past been seen as weaknesses – fragmented ownership, low rents and lack of central coordination – are helping the high street experiment, evolve and meet the needs of the local community.

Post-pandemic working patterns may also help suburban high streets. With many people newly self-employed and businesses set to move away from five-day office weeks, there will be more people working from home during the week. That means more people heading to their local high streets during lunch breaks and early evenings.

We are also seeing a more community-minded attitude towards shopping starting to emerge. According to a study by Deloitte, 57% of people plan to spend money with businesses selling locally-produced products in the future.

Another shift has occurred in what we buy – moving from ‘stuff’ to ‘self’. Since 2013, there has been a rise in people visiting nail salons, coffee shops, restaurants and barbers. These are all experiences you can’t replicate online and give bricks and mortar retail a well-deserved boost.

Perhaps it’s time to start looking beyond the headlines and understanding that purchasing and regional trends could be just what our local high streets need right now.

The Delta Group helps retailers get more from their physical stores by giving them the tools they need to enhance the customer experience. Get in touch to find out how we can help your business grow: