Monday, January 07, 2013

Is retail going the way of newspapers, books & music?

This short piece in The Grocer suggests that UK retail is not in a good place. Retailers are finding it tough to find rents and rates with declining numbers of people heading to the shops and increasing numbers of shoppers choosing to do that from the comfort of their phone, tablet or laptop.

I started my career on the High Street. Firstly managing a family-owned restaurant and then in various women’s fashion outlets from Worcester to the West End. It’s where I learned how to do business and I learned about customers and merchandising and sales and probably lots of other things too. I still like to spend time in my local town centre and do shop locally a lot of the time rather than relying on online commerce. I still like to touch and feel my groceries before buying them and there is also the human contact element. I work from home a lot of the time with just my laptop for company. And although social media is great and I love chatting to friends and colleagues online, I do need to see real people from time to time. And the High Street is where I can do that. The greeting I get every time I go into my local newsagent is fantastic. It makes it a real pleasure to go in and spend money there. It’s where I top up my Oyster card. I figure I’d rather give him the business that do that online automatically.

The march to e- and m-commerce is unstoppable. Even if the government can put procedures in place to stem the tide a little bit, it won’t stop it. And that’s making the assumption that they can or want to do anything about it anyway. I do see that our High Streets and our communities need to evolve in the digital age. Having been in a recession for the last few years, I think we’re getting over the shopaholic tendencies we may have shown in previous times. Terence Eden is predicting the death of the High Street this year – well, in terms of Telco representation at least. And the Telegraph suggests prospects aren't that bright either and explains the results of some of the UK's largest retailers in this post.

At the same time, I’ve seen a resurgence of markets locally – first Brixton and now Tooting. I’m also seeing craft markets seem to be thriving and locally at least, there are plenty craft workshops going on in High Street premises, usually pubs, but it’s still the local High Street. Is this sustainable and is this the start of what our high streets will look like in the future – places to meet, hang out, learn stuff rather than participate in rampant consumerism?

Something I’ll be watching and thinking about in 2013.