AI predicts high streets of the future

31st Jul 2023

Savoo has looked into available online data to predict the future of the UK’s high streets in the next 5-10 years, including using AI to help visualise some significant changes. 

Illustrations of high stores and shops with Amazon, Etsy and Asos having physical shops

Over the past few years, UK high streets have faced numerous challenges as they grapple with the ever-evolving landscape of shopping habits and the impact of the global pandemic. As consumers increasingly embrace the convenience and accessibility of online shopping, traditional brick-and-mortar stores have experienced significant shifts in footfall and consumer preferences.

In order to keep up with the changing times, the high street must undergo adaptation and change its offerings to meet shifting consumer demands.

Interested to see how this could be achieved money-saving and online fundraising website, Savoo, has asked AI about what our UK high streets will look like in the future, creating visuals to go alongside AI’s commentary.

The team has also looked into the UK’s high streets funding, store openings and closures and high street spending habits in 28 major UK cities to determine which UK cities have the most optimistic future for their high streets.

UK high streets to welcome Amazon, Etsy, and ASOS in the next five years, predicts AI

AI predicts that three online e-commerce giants, Amazon, Etsy, and ASOS, may make their way onto UK high streets in the near future. These online e-commerce giants have been exploring physical store concepts, with Amazon already operating Amazon Go stores and Amazon Books locations. Etsy has experimented with temporary physical shops in the US and the UK, while ASOS has ventured into pop-up shops and could explore permanent locations.

When AI was asked about the potential for ASOS as an in-person store concept, it suggested the possibility of interactive experiences, such as virtual reality dressing rooms and styling consultations with fashion experts. This would allow customers to try on different looks and receive personalized style advice. An ASOS physical store could also offer a convenient returns and exchanges policy, reflecting the brand's commitment to customer satisfaction. Tech-savvy features, such as digital price tags and interactive displays, might be incorporated to provide a seamless shopping experience, mirroring the online platform's user-friendly nature.

Regarding Etsy, AI envisions an in-person Etsy store that would be a true reflection of the website, offering a diverse range of creative and unique items, including jewellery, pottery, clothing, and home decor. Customers can look forward to connecting with both local and international vendors, immersing themselves in the spirit of the online marketplace. Organized sections by themes, such as vintage clothing or artisanal jewellery, facilitate seamless exploration. Interactive experiences, like workshops and demonstrations, immerse customers in the creative process behind each purchase.

Additionally, the store would maintain Etsy's personalized shopping experience, with vendors available to discuss custom orders and provide assistance in finding the perfect item.

Over 11,000+ chain stores forecasted to close in the UK by 2030

Based on available data from chain store openings and closures in the last five years, the study reveals in the UK by 2030 we can expect to see 13,228 chain store closures. This compares to just 898 chain stores opening on our UK high streets, meaning an overall reduction of around 11,371 chain stores. 

Looking closely at the different cities across, it anticipates that Greater London is expected to experience a record number of chain store closures. With 2,399 stores anticipated to close by 2030, representing a rise of 542 from 2015. 

Spreadsheet showing regions, number of openings and closings

Plymouth has the strongest high street in the UK post-lockdown

When one thinks of the UK high street, iconic names like Oxford Street, Regent Street, or even Notting Hill often come to mind. However, the research suggests that to find the UK's strongest high street, a closer look should be taken further south.

By looking into official reports around the UK high streets, including the opening and closings of stores and the High Street Recovery Tracker, Savoo has created an index to show which UK cities have the strongest high streets. 

Plymouth comes out on top with the highest overall index recovery score (165) of all the cities analysed. This takes into account the footfall in each city centre in comparison to pre-lockdown, and the highest scores for weekday, weekend, and nighttime footfall. Blackpool comes 2nd with the highest spend score (195) of the cities analysed. 

These are the top five UK cities with the strongest high streets in 2023: 

top five UK cities with the strongest high streets in 2023

Ed Fleming, Managing Director at Savoo adds: “The way that people shop has changed considerably in the past 10 years. With the rise in online shopping becoming more convenient for many, we have seen huge high-street names buckle. With the Cost of Living crisis, people are guided by the pursuit of value and necessity, with many looking online for as many savings as possible. 

“People's shopping habits are forever changing and businesses need to adapt quickly to survive. It will be interesting to see which types of shops and businesses we see emerge on the UK’s high streets in coming years.”

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