The Decline of the High Street

One of the current issues in todays climate, as we know is the growth of online sales and ergo, the  decline of the high street. I, for one, am an advocate of online sales, for several obvious reasons. One, I can simply shop from my desk. I don’t have to leave the house, spend money on petrol, try and find a parking place, etc. I can source the best deals with a click of my mouse and I can see frank and unbiased reviews on the product.

However, on the flip side sometimes I do want to go shopping on the high street. I want to wander around, try things on, have a coffee or lunch with a friend and enjoy browsing and coming back with bags of purchases that caught my eye. Instant gratification.

However, I always come back with that frustrated feeling that alot of the shops have given up the fight.  The digital age is gaining strength and momentum and they feel the end is nigh. Some may be right. Look at Blockbuster, one of the first of the fallen. Others; Comet, Woolworth, HMV, etc, of course.

Each have a reason for their decline but let’s take Blockbuster for an example. They blindingly kept on trucking oblivious to the opportunities out there for them. Film is one of the areas of continued growth. Cinemas continue to be filled and DVD and blu ray sales are growing, admittingly on-line. Strengthen all areas. Cover all bases. Think of all the opportunities. Don’t think like a marketer or a retailer, think like a consumer. Offer an online service, maybe customers could order a DVD online and pop down to the shop and pick it up. Offer a delivery service. Cable, SKY, I hear you cry. Yes, but not everyone has it. My parents for one. The older generation love films too, my dad for one, but they might not have cable TV. Actually neither do I. My husband and I used to love popping down to Blockbuster with our two sons and grabbing a couple of movies and a few bags of popcorn. I’m sure they will remember those days when they are older.

My point is think laterally. Think like a consumer. What can you offer the customers to make them walk into your shop, make a purchase and most importantly return again to buy more. What can you do to make your customers recommend you to others?

Service for one is a key reason. Mary Portas is always complaining that the service in shops in the UK is pretty bad, and I have to agree. Walk into a dollar shop in San Diego and you get the same service and attention as if you walked into Gucci on Rodeo Drive. It’s about completing the experience. Think like a consumer.

However, we cannot expect retailers to be marketers aswell. Hence the thousands of marketing companies. We all have a strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are designers, financiers, marketers, dentists, hairdressers. We all have that one thing we are good at. That’s why your customer comes to you. Work on your strengths and reach out to others in the areas that you are weak in.

The Marketing Week ran a feature on June 3rd – ‘WI pitches in to end high street crisis’

The Women’s Institute is throwing its influence behind a campaign to save Britain’s high streets and is hoping to end the perpetual decline of town centres’

This is very interesting. The WI are urging people to use our local shops. Nothing new there. We’ve always been urging people to shop locally. What is interesting though is we are encouraging people to shop on the high street, then therefore shops need to step up to the mark! If this works, then they need to retain this custom. We can’t have these enthusiastic customers marching down the high streets, pockets full of cash willing to re-energise the high street, buy a few things and then fall back into online purchasing again. The shops need to focus on retaining this revenue. Continue and improve this revenue.

I was also interested recently to read in PR Weekly that Breckland Council are looking to offer SME’s PR & marketing support. This interested me because this is a council looking at their high street’s and recognising that perhaps they had a responsibility to help re-energise these areas by directly helping the businesses to help themselves. It’s a bit like that saying ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ . We need to teach businesses how to market and PR themselves better so they can strengthen and learn to adapt to the rapid changes in the digital age.

If we do not step up to the mark and make immediate changes, our high streets will fall. This isn’t a battle, this is growth. We cannot be complacent. We must learn and open our minds and embrace it, both for now and for our future generations.


Breckland Council article:

Dan Cox, senior economic development officer at Breckland Council, said: ‘The focus will be on the role that grants have in helping the growth of firms. We want to raise awareness and are looking for SMEs who have that appetite for growth and investment.

‘As well as guidance on how best to reach those businesses, we also want to build a brand element around our work.’

The council is on the hunt for one agency that can offer both PR and marketing expertise, but is open to the idea of the agency sub-contracting elements of the brief. A key part of the work would be to emphasise the importance of sustainable growth.

The 21-month brief is part of the wider, £8.5m Grants4Growth project, which runs for two years and is a result of a successful bid to the European Regional Development Fund.