Time for the High Street to reinvent itself

10th Oct 2016

After many years of decline and as some so decisively put it, the ‘death of the high street’ due to statistics claiming that more than 10 per cent of high street stores across the UK now lie vacant, it is reassuring to witness its re-invention.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard have revealed that high streets enjoyed a 1.1 per cent increase in footfall during August, pushing overall footfall in the UK, including shopping centres and retail parks, up by 0.1 per cent year-on-year. But it was not the lure of the shops itself that drew this increase. Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC revealed, “driving the overall rise on the high street is an increase in footfall post 5pm, which highlights the growing evening economy based on leisure activities – hospitality, food and beverage trips – and is a result of a markedly improved and expanded offering by shopping destinations.”

The creation of a single destination, were retail and leisure come together to offer visitors and shoppers a more diverse ‘experience’, is not a new trend however.

Last month Westfield London revealed that over the course of a year it found that 58% of the two million visitors dined out during the trip. Over a third of shoppers preferred eating out over shopping, with 36% spending their money solely in restaurants and eateries while at Westfield.

But it not just hospitality outlets that will fuel growth, 2018 will mark the opening of a Nickelodeon-themed indoor family entertainment centre at intu’s Lakeside. The new Nickelodeon amusement at Lakeside will feature adventure zones, themed-rooms for parties and beloved characters including SpongeBob SquarePants, and a dedicated food and beverage area.

And this trend is not just happening in the UK. New Jersey in the US will also welcome SpongeBob SquarePants and friends when it enters the under-construction American Dream Meadowlands mall and leisure complex. Dubbed Nickelodeon Universe, the 35,000sq m amusement park will feature a number of rides based on iconic brands. In addition to Nickelodeon Universe, the shopping mall will have a wide range of entertainment options as well as its 450 retail stores.

Various research has shown that while customers can now enjoy a myriad of digital channels to shop, as well as receive goods via different methods of delivery and collection, they still gravitate toward the physical method of browsing and purchasing in-store. The Omnico Retail Gap Barometer found that 43% of respondents preferred this method of shopping.

The impetus is for the High Street to totally re-invent itself. There are necessary steps that must be taken to enhance and deliver this new joined-up experience. Intu shopping centres are already doing this, offering the ability to click and collect through the intu website from the various brands within its malls. Rather than direct customers to each individual brand, it collates them onto its own website, making the customer’s journey as seamless and easy as possible.   

Theme parks and resorts in Orlando are a good source of inspiration. Many of the larger resorts are addressing the issue of queuing at their restaurants and events by offering the ability to pre-plan and pre-book. At SeaWorld Orlando, for example, an app allows guests to buy menu items from on-site restaurants in advance so they do not have to queue or wait for their food. Shoppers visiting their local high street could pre-book their restaurant tables, even use a cashless wristband often seen at Disney World, to meander the high street without the need to carry and use a purse or wallet.

The high street has no future as a diverse collection of shops, bars and restaurants, but it will flourish and grow by becoming a destination where families can enjoy and share a retail and leisure experience. By connecting these through technology available today, the British high street will be well on its way to a new resurgence.  

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