Reading the news this morning, once again I read a headline that made me instantly think I have seen that before. Having read the article titled “The High Street struggling to survive” it made me think I was having a case of deja-vu, but no, this article was based around Rotherham High Street. In reality it is the same story, just based on a different high street.
Since the internet really came into its own and enabled us to shop easily online, there has been pressure on traditional retailers, with rents and rates increasing and takings in stores reducing, it is no surprise retailers are struggling and that is just the large ones. For small independent retailers the challenge is even harder.
Two years ago, I was speaking at an event about customer engagement and used the retail sector as a focus, the underlying message being that retailers had to create more of an experience and work with their online presence rather than against it. Some retailers have started to achieve this, but it tends to be in out of town stores where they are a destination. The high street is still a wash with stores that are “selling products” and not creating an experience. To attract people to a store there needs to be a difference, an experience that reflects the brand and values of the store, something that cannot be repeated online. Think about offering specialist advise, makeup brands do this very well, visit any department store and every makeup brand has advisors telling you what colours you should use, how to make your face up and more, these are things you can’t get online. So, the challenge is how to repeat this type of service for other products and in smaller stores.
The internet is not going to go away, rates and rents are not going to decrease in the long term, so retailers need to change the way they operate, or they will continue to go out of business. In addition, town councils need to change the way they plan their centres to make them an overall attraction to people, this is something that Rotherham seem to be doing. Make the town a destination, not just for shopping but for a day out and the retailers will follow suit.
Enough of my rantings, what do you think?