In 2011, Mary Portas was appointed by the UK government to lead an independent review into our high streets entitled ‘The Portas Review’. The report offered a list of recommendations on how best to revitalise the high street, including a series of ‘pilot high streets’ in towns across Britain that would be used to trial her recommendations. Amongst these pilot towns was Stockport in Greater Manchester, where UKPOS launched 25 years ago.
Three years on and Portas has released a new report – bringing good news for brick and mortar retailers! Her findings, entitled ‘Why Our High Streets Still Matter’ suggests that the high street is far from dead and, with more independents opening up shop every day, we are in the midst of a high street revival. So, what can retailers learn from Portas’ report and how can they stay ahead of the competition when it comes to winning the loyalty of Britain’s high street shoppers?
Shoppers are returning to the High Street
The notion that the high street is being killed off by ecommerce and retail giants no longer seems to ring true. One reason for this is that many young entrepreneurs are beginning to feel more confident about their chances when opening retail units. In her latest report, Mary points out that 44 independent shops opened every day across Britain’s 500 high streets last year. This, coupled with a rise in pop up stores, has seen the high street regain confidence.
Shoppers still enjoy the retail experience that the high street offers and the immediacy of being able to buy a product there and then, as opposed to ordering online and waiting for it to be delivered. This is especially true for those living close to the high street, with a reported 80% of us living within a 5 mile range and a further 38% of us visiting them almost daily.
Although large chains can be a controversial subject area when discussing the future of the high street, supermarkets have inadvertently played a positive role. According to Planet Retail, more people are carrying out one weekly grocery shop from a supermarket chain, whether in-store or online, which they then top up during the week at their local convenience store. As Portas highlights, this is good news for local retailers with shoppers making more visits to local stores throughout the week.
Creating a desirable shopping experience
As the high street regains stability, it’s encouraging to see that a reported 80% of consumers still carry out their shopping in the physical store. This is great news for retailers and yet, it also means that it’s more important than ever for retailers to ensure they are offering the best customer experience – especially for independents going head to head with larger chains. As such, retailers are beginning to place more emphasis on the customer experience, with visual merchandising and in-store displays playing a key role.
Making the most of ecommerce
Time and time again we hear about online platforms such as Amazon and eBay drawing customers away from independent and local retailers on the high street. Yet, as Portas highlights, the internet does not have to be a hindrance for brick and mortar retailers. The online and offline worlds are beginning to merge, with ecommerce now an attractive option for local businesses looking to reach a wider audience and remain connected.
The high street is here to stay
Mary Portas’ latest findings put forward a strong case for the high street. More independents are opening up shop, brands are increasingly looking to explore ecommerce alongside a brick and mortar presence, and retailers are placing more importance on the visual appeal and layout of the store. All of this is helping to deliver a more dynamic and engaging experience for the shopper.
It’s key that retailers – the pilot towns in particular – remain confident and continue to make strides in creating a visual, dynamic shopping experience that revitalises our love of the high street and puts these towns on the map.