Will the High Street Die?

September 2018

For many years now, the state of Britain’s high streets seems to make a regular appearance in the news, and it is almost always negative. The death of the high street has been predicted due to a number of factors, with the main one undoubtedly being the rise of the internet, ecommerce and online shopping.

While it can’t be denied that Britain’s high streets are far worse off than they were two or three decades ago, whether they will fully disappear completely is still up for debate. Many retailers are embracing digital and bricks and mortar to keep it breathing.

Constant Struggles

It’s no secret that the high street is struggling. There are many examples of big names closing, from the likes of Woolworths that were early victims of the 2008 financial crash, to British Home Stores shutting down in 2016. Even in 2018 Marks & Spencer, a high street giant for over a century, announced plans to close more than 100 stores.

The high street has experienced plenty of change before, with small individual traders such as butchers, bakers and fishmongers being pushed out by larger, more powerful supermarkets and department stores. Now it seems the same is happening, but it is the ecommerce giants and online retailers that are pushing the physical high street stores offline and into the online world.

Ongoing struggles have been blamed mainly on the rise of online shopping, the financial crash and recession. The evidence is there and with many shops closing and not being replaced, it’s little surprise many professional commentators are claiming the high street to be dead already. Yet there could be some hope.  

Hybrid Shopping Experiences

There have been a few positives for the high street, such as the summer heatwave and World Cup fever providing a sales boost. However, these are just short-term solutions and in the long-term the outlook is still fairly bleak for the most part. The same is true across the Christmas period, which regularly offers a good boost but is only temporary.

One way that the high street could be kept alive is through a hybrid shopping experience that some brands are currently implementing or testing out. Already this is evident with the likes of click and collect, whereby consumers do their browsing and shopping online but choose to collect in store rather than go for home or work delivery.

The convenience of home delivery is valuable to many consumers but as there is usually a charge, collecting in store for free will continue to appeal to many. Some online retailers have even started to open physical stores to have a presence and offer such a service. 

The High Street’s Future

It cannot be denied that the high street is shrinking, but how far it shrinks remains to be seen. Some figures have predicted ecommerce to account for 40% of all UK retail sales by 2030. While that is a big number, it’s still a long way away from 100%, suggesting there’s still life and an important place in the UK for the traditional high street.

Having a physical presence is vital to some brands too, as it acts as a visual marketing tool, especially in busy city centres. It’s not hard to imagine some stores remaining open as a loss leader in the future just for this element.

If online and offline shopping can work harmoniously in some way that benefits both consumers and businesses, then the high street could survive. Get started with Whistl if your business is in need of parcel delivery services to complement its physical presence or if you run an ecommerce company.  

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