Clearly, there has been a rising number of high street shops closing down all over the UK. According to a survey made by the Local Data Company (LDC), sixteen stores closed a day in 2018 and these figures are likely to increase in years to come. This situation has been made worse by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has resulted in two nation-wide lockdowns and placed severe restrictions on high street shoppers. However, the increasing popularity of online shopping and changing shopping trends can also account for this change. What is the future of the UK’s high streets, and how will retailers cope with this change?
What is happening and what are the consequences?
There has been an unquestionable decline in the number of shops on British high streets. According to a number of analyses, leisure facilities (such as pubs and bars) have suffered the most, along with fashion retailers and electronic stores.
This is mainly down to the increasing popularity of online shopping, rising costs for retailers, and rapid changes in the market. A large number of stores have had no choice but to go out of business, which has resulted in countless deserted buildings across the country.
This has only further encouraged shoppers to rely on websites such as Amazon, ASOS, and eBay. Many high street retailers have moved online in order to retain customers and avoid losses.
How has Covid-19 worsened this problem?
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in two lockdowns and a strict Tier system, has dramatically worsened the situation. It has discouraged consumers from travelling to the high street and this has naturally led to empty and quiet town centres.
High street shops either have to adapt their market strategies in order to survive or face the risk of going bankrupt. Certain businesses, such as fashion stores and technology companies, might not have to radically alter their market strategies because of their wide consumer platforms and strong online presence. Other businesses, like hairdressers, travel agents, and those in event management, will probably struggle to survive due to their small consumer bases and limited business locations.
Did any stores benefit from this change?
Although high street stores were already having a difficult time prior to the pandemic, some businesses have found themselves benefiting from the changing shopping atmosphere. As I mentioned earlier, online shopping websites have benefitted from this changing trend and made profits at the expense of the high street. For example, Amazon has seen a huge increase in sales as a direct result of the Covid-19 restrictions. These profits could be used to further expand their business, such as by employing more people and expanding into new markets.
Some high street businesses have even benefitted from closing down certain stores. The company as a whole would save money on rent, store decorations and employee salaries. Also, moving online could boost their sales and lead to an increase in customers since online shopping is easier than travelling to a store on the high street.
What’s next for the high street?
Although a large number of shoppers (myself included) prefer the in-person shopping experience, we must accept that the decline of the high street is a trend that will continue. Online shopping is more popular than ever, and businesses will continue to research ways to expand their market and reduce their costs through online platforms.
Despite this change, it is still possible to revive our high streets. The declining number of high street retailers has created opportunities for local communities to open new outlets and move away from traditional and well-established high street brands, and to replace them with pop-up shops, event spaces, and market-style food outlets. This could revolutionize the high street and encourage shoppers to return to their town centers. It could also be said that fewer high street shops will open up opportunities for new shopping experiences, such as Christmas markets, street performances, and concert festivals.