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The Future Looks Good for High Street Retailers

Last week we brought some good cheer to small to medium business (SMB) owners with the news that consumers are nowadays three times more likely to choose to buy from independent retailers than from a large store.  After so many years of high streets across the UK declining due to the advent of online shopping, this is a promising development for high street traders across the UK.  Over the past few years we’ve witnessed some of the traditional retail giants like Debenhams, Toys’R’Us, and even Marks & Spencer closing stores in towns across the UK as they shift their main focus onto selling via their websites.  Whilst this initially seemed to predict a gloomy future for the smaller high street shops, the increasing consumer preference for buying from independent retailers was welcome news.

 Today we’re covering another recent development that seems to turn the technological progress we’ve seen in recent years on its head.  Some of the most popular retail websites that began their business life online, rather than in bricks and mortar premises, are now beginning to infiltrate the high streets.  In America, a growing number of the brands born on the internet (also known as Digital Natives) are beginning to open premises in suburban malls, many of which have become practically deserted in recent years. 

Casper, America’s most successful online mattress retailer is opening stores to enable customers to try before they buy.  Indochino, a popular online tailor, is planning shops where customers can enjoy the benefits of being measured for a custom suit by a real person in the real world.  This movement has been dubbed “clicks to bricks”, a veritable about turn as retailers realise that in many instances, shoppers want a touchy-feely experience, they want to touch or try on items before committing to spend their hard earned cash.  Amazon has already opened shops in several states in America – Amazon Books, Amazon Pop-Ups are popular as many of these also function as Kindle and Fire Tablet trade in locations.

This is partly because the cost of attracting new customers online has soared as Google and other platforms have increased the price of advertising online.  Those who once believed they did not need a physical presence to attract sales growth are now singing a very different tune.

The economics of doing business have changed.  The number of vacancies in malls and high street premises has resulted in landlords offering flexible leases and reduced rental charges which make it cheaper than ever to open a physical store.  This, combined with the higher cost of advertising online means it can now cost ten times more to acquire a new customer online than it does with a physical store. 

Usually, wherever America leads, here in the UK we follow eagerly – especially when it comes to the shopping experience.  This means that our high streets are likely to undergo more transformations in the coming years.  Independent high street retailers can use this development to their advantage by catering to the shoppers who will also be returning to the high streets in larger numbers in future.