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Collaboration central to High Street’s future?

3rd Mar 2015
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You wouldn’t necessarily expect Amazon joining the High Street to be music to the ears of the rest of the retail fraternity.

However, with the ecommerce behemoth’s recent foray into bricks-and-mortar stores kicking off in Indiana and predicted to spread far and wide in the coming months and years, at least retailers were seemingly able to gain some solace from knowing that the world’s largest online retailer saw a future in the flailing high street.

Despite global retail spending topping $22 trillion in 2014, footfall numbers for local shopping centres are still in decline.

In the UK, for instance, local town centres saw a 1.2% drop in visitor numbers in January 2015 compared with a year ago, while December 2014 saw a 0.7% fall.

And shopping centres reported the largest decline, falling 2.8%, while high streets experienced a 1.6% decline in footfall, up on the 1.8% fall in December.   

Many suggestions have been made regarding how the high street should react. Multichannel shopping is seen as central to continuing to drive visitors to town centre shops, and indeed, Amazon’s main premise for launching bricks-and-mortar stores is to tie up the online experience with offline convenience.

Similarly, in the UK, retailers have been taking to click-and-collect in their droves to match this level of experience.      

An alternative viewpoint exists, however, and the upcoming Future High Street Summit in Nottingham places collaboration as the most important driver for reviving the UK’s high streets, and it is a theme that one of the event’s speakers, Jean Ball MIPM, Town Team Special Advisor at ATCM, states could also help revive whole communities too:

“The towns and cities that are enjoying positive momentum are those where people, passion and power are working in partnership. In the 21st century, the truth is that no single entity can deliver thriving high streets – not local government, business improvement districts, town teams, chambers or town centre partnerships – but together we can make places that are alive, vibrant, inclusive and resilient.

“Town centres are complex places and it takes collaborative effort by a wide and varied range of stakeholders, each doing their bit and working to shared objectives, to craft real change with lasting impact.”

Glenn Shoosmith, co-founder of BookingBug agrees that this type of ‘sharing’ is crucial to the evolution of the high street, and recently wrote on MyCustomer about the retailers that were already starting to have success in the field:

“More and more retailers are becoming aware of this shared space of interest and using it to offer services or experiences in store that will make customers actually want to spend time there. And more importantly, these experiences leave them better informed and in a position where they want to spend more money there.

“For example, Pets At Home customers can now bring in pets for a free in-store nutrition consultation. The re-launched Jessops offers photography classes in its stores. Waitrose hosts a cookery school. Whatever your product, there’ll be something you can provide that tells your customers something they don’t know.”

However, Jean Ball also warns that as well as offering better sharing experiences, large-scale retailers will need to be more collaborative with community-style retail concepts in order to maintain success in the future, and cited the success of concepts such as pop-up stores as an example of this.  

A recent study by EE and the Centre for Economic and Business Research in July 2014 found that the pop-up retail industry was growing at a rate of 8.4%, compared to the 3.4% growth of the wider retail sector. 

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