The collapse of three major chains last week put 30,000 retail jobs at risk and raised fears for the future of city centers. But the picture is not all bleak, according to experts, including former government petty emperor Mary Portas, who says she has too much nostalgia and too little optimism for the future of Britain’s big street.
“The days of high stacking and fast selling are complete and final,” said Portas, who has been in retail for more than 40 years. “Dominant brands have been doing this for years and they have failed to offer anything above average. Does anyone really miss the BHS? Does anyone care about Dorothy Perkins? “
On a wet Thursday afternoon at Oxford Circus, shoppers are significantly weak on the ground. By the time Topshop enters, the store’s DJ is desperately managing the decks to meet the short flow of creating a “party atmosphere” for customers. A few doors down in Debenhams, shoppers take advantage of the sale of all seven floors of the leading store. Both entered the administration last week.
“We are looking at a whole new generation that will no longer support people like Philip Green,” Portas said. “They do not support businesses that do not prioritize people or the planet. “We are moving away from that: a new value system is at stake.”
Were it not for potential job losses, she would have sung to the dinosaurs at retail. Portas is focused on what he called the “economy of ness”, which envisions the growth of high streets with a comprehensive philosophy that includes some kind of contribution to improving life. But what will this translate into?
Obviously far fewer shops selling real goods and a far stronger focus on the experiential side of things – capturing everything from escape rooms and nail salons to restaurants and street performers.
In the city, brick and mortar stores are expected to survive if they are able to provide something more than purely transactional – a great service that cannot be replicated over the Internet, expertise or a space where people want to be together. Community hubs are often cited, while brands such as Patagonia, Glossier and Nike are cited as examples of larger retailers.
Research routinely shows that sustainability, innovation and commitment are not just loud words for marketers, but the keys to building brand loyalty among younger customers who want the companies they buy from to show social responsibility. This comes down to what is held on the high streets, where the most successful will offer a mix of retail, entertainment, culture and well-being.
From Stoke New Washington to Stoke-on-Trent, pop-ups and local boutique businesses are also expected to thrive on high streets with strong local communities. That American Express and Google have launched campaigns urging customers to shop locally and support small businesses, underlining experts on the future.
“Covid-19 has crystallized the social and economic movement that has been rippling over the last decade,” Portas said. “We have seen mass introspection and re-examination of how we live and want to live. Globally, 77% of people now say they value business decency as much as price and convenience. “Deeper, more meaningful connections to where you live will become far more important than a day trip to an out-of-town mall or retail park.”
In downtown Reading, retail expert Mark Pilkington examines Broad Street, a pedestrian street anchored by John’s Lewis. “This is not as bad as modern high streets go: there are not too many windows and there is a strong mix of services – nail grilles, phone repair shops and so on. That is a common offer in the middle market. ” However, in order for the retail to survive, he predicts that the stores will become showcases of stocks held online.
“It makes no sense to use a store as a celebrated warehouse full of things when stocks can be viewed and sold online. “The store will shrink and it will be about engaging customers in a way they can’t experience from the screens.” While much of this focus seems to be about serving the habits of millennials, Generation Z and younger, Pilkington and Portas argue that the overall reconstruction of the street will benefit everyone.
“Injecting more theater and excitement into traditional high streets increases their customer appeal across the board.” “If you do not want city centers where skinheads cheat on grandmothers, you have to make them an attractive place to hang out.”
This year, the government has set up a 95 95 million fund to revitalize “historic high streets” across England. The scheme, implemented by Historic England, has identified 68 high streets that would be revitalized by cash injection, but it focuses only on those in conservation areas. Today, the ideologically high streets in every city, lit by entrance windows, betting shops and discount outlets, also need attention.
If Pilkington ran down the street down to his heel, he would “beautify it with some sculptures and flowers. Have stores that add service or experience – an electronics repair or repair service. “They will be of real value to that community and you can not replicate them online.”
High streets are also expected to become residential: under new rules that took effect in September, it is now possible to turn commercial properties – including free shops – into homes without planning permission. The hope is that revitalizing a major street can be ignited by allowing commercial properties to be quickly converted.
The relationship between businesses and landlords is also expected to change, with rental systems becoming more flexible. In the short term, a number of retailers, including All Saints and Looku Face, are negotiating their lease terms to commit to “turnover-based rentals” to reflect the purchases of individual stores. In the long run, Pilkington says, homeowners “must come to a party” if they are serious about saving the street.
“The leases are too long, too unyielding. “Owners need to be far more innovative and mobile and offer space that can take up new business and transform the look through technology.” Instead of setting up shop for six months, this way the business will “get involved and play” so that the space could be a pop-up window for a famous brand one day and a yoga studio the next.
In his book Retail therapy: Why the retail industry is broken and what can be done to fix it, Pilkington argues that the excessive level of business rates is the main reason for the long decline on the street. For his future after Covid, he believes the Internet tax is essential to retail reform.
“If local authorities really want to save high streets, they would make parking free and easily accessible. And if the government cares about saving retailers, they will introduce an online tax. “Amazon pays virtually no business activity rates.”
Portas, who appointed David Cameron to lead the foreseeable future of Britain’s high streets in 2011, said the Conservatives had systematically failed to understand how business had changed.
“They need to wake up.” It is a shame that they have not yet adjusted their thinking on how Amazon and shipping giants should pay equivalent tax rates online. It is a shame that they do nothing about it. Their slowness in understanding, their delay is ridiculous.
“These delivery giants have flooded the roads, massively increasing the SO2 emissions, increase packaging and they contribute so little. “Nobody actually looked at the implications of what we buy, when we buy it and the effect it has on the way we live.”