Is the high street dead as UK planning minister suggests?by
With many retailers such as Comet, Blockbusters and Jessops gone to the wall in recent times, UK planning minister Nick Boles has shocked the retail sector by declaring the death of the traditional high street.
The government minister has put forward proposals to allow local authorities to convert abandoned retail premises into private housing as more and more Brits take their shopping online.
As reported in The Telegraph, a consultation paper due out this week is expected to call on local councils to focus on revitalising just one or two “prime streets” and ready the rest for housing developments.
Boles was quoted as saying: “People's shopping habits are changing very fast as a result of the rise in internet shopping and changes in lifestyle and working patterns.
"We need to think creatively about how to help town centres thrive in this new era. We want to encourage local councils to concentrate retail activity into the prime shopping streets in the heart of their town centres and adopt a more relaxed approach to underused retail frontages.”
According to The Telegraph report, Boles’ proposals marked the first time a minister has publicly said that the traditional high street is beyond saving and was a distinct move away from Mary Portas’ government-backed campaign into regenerating the British High Street, which saw the Portas Review make 28 recommendations to the government.
Eric Abensur, CEO at Venda, said of the news: “The coalition can't seem to decide whether shop window signs should read ‘Open’ or ‘Closed’ for business. We have had a weekend of confusion which has highlighted that ministers lack a full grasp of the role that the high street still plays in driving purchases in a multi-channel world.
"The fate of retailers who have recently fallen victim to administration was not a result of the high-street losing relevance to consumers, but rather a failure on the part of retailers to adapt and integrate its high-street shopping experience with other digital platforms and failing to realise how each purchasing channel interplays with the next.
One brand that is successfully integrating a digital strategy into its bricks 'n mortor stores is John Lewis. MD Andy Street explained how an omnichannel strategy has helped the brand outperform its rivals and deliver strong profits when others have struggled so much with the modern multichannel shopper.
“We know that about 60% of our customers buy both online and in shops so the approach is to make it absolutely seamless for them to move from one to the other. So they can research in one place and shop in the other, they can buy in one place and pick up in the other – the art of sales is consistent across channels, so the whole approach is to make it channel agnostic. They’re not even supposed to know or see or realise which channel they're using because it's one overall customer offer,” he said.
MyCustomer.com also recently caught up with former Tesco Boss Terry Leahy who spoke of the importance of a data-driven strategy for high street retailers. “The key is to use data to better manage the supply chain and operating systems but also to understand customers in a way that can create more relevant benefit for the customer. By doing so, customers will create loyalty, and from that comes more spend and more profitable spend. That’s the economics of data,” he said.