It’s time to reinvent the high street, says Mary Portas

Retail chain closures may have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but experts have stressed that it’s not all doom and gloom. 

Retail guru Mary Portas is one such expert. As the Guardian reports, she claims there is ‘too much nostalgia and too little optimism’ around the British high street’s future. 

“The days of stacking stuff high and selling it fast are completely and utterly over,” Portas said. “The brands that dominated did that for years and they failed to offer anything beyond mediocrity.” 

Writing for Financial Times, Portas references the demise of Topshop. She claims the main reason why the once-jewel in Arcadia’s crown has failed is that ‘it forgot that creativity is the ultimate economic resource’. 

A new focus on experiential

“We’re looking at a whole new generation who aren’t going to prop up the likes of Philip Green any more,” Portas continues. “They’re not supporting businesses who don’t prioritise people or the planet. We’re moving away from that: there is a new value system at play.” 

So, what does the future of the high street look like? Portas claims that she is now focused on what she has called “the kindness economy,” wherein she predicts growth for high street retailers which have an overarching philosophy involving some form of contribution towards making life better. 

This will translate to fewer stores selling actual goods, and a greater focus on experiential – which covers everything from street performers and escape rooms, to restaurants and nail salons. 

In town centres, physical stores will survive provided they can offer an experience that extends beyond the purely transactional – quality service that cannot be replicated online, a space that brings people together, or expert insight. 

Many studies affirm that innovation, sustainability and standing for something are all vital in inspiring brand loyalty among younger generations who demand social responsibility from the brands they buy from. This applies to the high street, where the most successful retailers will be the ones that offer a blend of retail, entertainment, wellbeing and culture. 

Local boutique businesses and pop-ups are predicted to thrive in high streets that have strong, local communities. Google and American Express are launching initiatives to inspire customers to shop local suggests where experts feel the future is headed.

“Covid-19 has crystallised a social and economic movement that has been bubbling under this past decade,” Portas continued. “We’ve seen mass introspection and a re-examination of how we live and want to live.” 

Portas cites a global study which found that 77% now say that they value decency in business just as much as convenience and price. “Deeper, meaningful connections with where you live will become far more important than a day trip to an out-of-town shopping centre or retail park.”

If you’re looking to add experiential to your mix, let the experts at The Delta Group help. Our experiential team can help you to create and deliver memorable experiences to promote your products, bring your brand to life and engage your audience. Get in touch today to find out more.