Not a week goes by without another story of retailers or a chain of shops succumbing to the pressure of the high street, it seems this problem will continue for some time. Accordingly, we aim to offer some suggestions on possible solutions for the current state of the high street.
Large retailers on the high street have been on a downturn for the last few years. The pressure that is mounting on them is plain for all to see. According to The Local Data Company, ‘The first half of 2019 saw almost twice as many store closures (16 per day) as openings (9 per day). In total, 1,634 stores opened and 2,868 stores closed over the period’1 This damning statistic highlights the severe situation the high street faces. The reasons behind this is multi-layered. I will try and outline some of the main catalysts for this; first is the rise in online purchases, the BBC have suggested that ‘20% of that market is held by online players’2 Combine this with the fall in the value of the pound, highlighted in the same article, a ‘15% fall in the pound since the Brexit vote has pushed inflation over 3% – way above the Bank of England’s 2% target. This has made imported goods more expensive, with those costs passed on to consumers.’3 Secondly, is the increase in wages, with the ‘National Living Wage for over-25s [going] up each year. British Retail Consortium estimates that the National Living Wage costs the industry between £1.5bn and £3bn a year.’4 Finally, the mainstays of retail have increasingly seen increases in profits as a reason to open new stores pre-the-decline. They are now in a situation where in order to restore their profits have been forced to close a number of their stores, ‘New Look is poised to close down as much as 60 of its 600 UK stores as it continues to battle massive debts,’ highlights the Retail Gazette. The burger chain Byron said last month that it would close as many as 20 outlets as part of a rescue plan approved by its lenders and landlords.’6 Altogether this has caused a dramatic issue for retailers in a cost concerned competitive market.
With all this being said, there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Despite the demise of some of the high streets most recognisable brands, Independent retailers have risen to the occasion and are now beginning to thrive, news website The Week, reported that despite the downturn, smaller shops had managed to avoid the pitfalls of the larger retailers: ‘Independent shops are doing better than their chain rivals…a net total of 138 independent stores closed their doors in the first six months of 2019.’7 However, the BBC News, suggested that, ‘262 new fashion retailer opened in 2019.’8 Thus bucking the decline in independent retailers.
With the upward growth in independent shops on the up. The question being asked is how do we make these shops more accessible to everyone? The answer to this is online retail, websites such as Tryd.co.uk and DownYourHighStreet.co.uk have come to the forefront. DYHS, brings together independent retailers onto one website, this allows allows consumers to shop in one place. Tryd, have partnered up with them to provide a same-day delivery service in London, as well as having their own stand-alone app, aimed at providing same day deliveries and a unique Try-Before-You-Buy option. These companies are doing what they can to help the local high street to benefit and find a solution for the downturn of the high street. The future for the local independent high street shouldn’t be seen as suffering but one on the upward curve and potentially can be the white knight of the retail industry.
1 https://www.localdatacompany.com/blog/store-closures-hit-record-levels-pwc-local-data-company2 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43240996 3 ibid 4 ibid 5 https://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2018/02/new-look-tipped-close-60-stores/ 6 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43240996 7 https://www.theweek.co.uk/104224/what-is-driving-the-collapse-of-high-street-shops 8 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49349703