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How the high street has changed

By JAMES COAKES Published 4th Feb 2015
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The ease and convenience of online shopping has led to big changes in the retail industry, and big changes for the high street. But while some were once predicting the death of traditional shopping and of the high street, what's actually happening is quite different. The high street shopping experience has changed significantly in the last decade, but it's definitely not going away.

Why is the high street Changing?

The high street is literally not what it used to be, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but still, it's worthwhile examining what lead to the change. It's mostly down to two factors: first, the global financial crisis exposed retailers to the aftermath of consumer confidence and cheap credit. Many small retailers were forced to close, and even larger big brand companies felt the effects. The second reason is simply that the overall customer experience is evolving, thanks to the rise in popularity of online shopping.

What has changed?

It's true that many types of shop are less common along the high street, but that's not necessarily resulting in more empty retail spaces: in fact, what's actually happening is that certain other types of shops are becoming much more common.

  • There are 46% fewer travel agents, 48% fewer women's and 20% fewer men's clothing shops, and 70% fewer film development shops.
  • Video rental shops are all but gone from the high street, down 98% in the last decade.
  • There are 186% more convenience stores, 173% more tattoo parlours, and 114% more health clubs.
  • The presence of fish & chip shops on the high street is up 86%, and other types of take-aways are up 54%.

For the most part, these changes are reflective of the reasons behind them. Retailers were the hardest hit by the financial crisis, but overall, service providers fared much better, and some types of service providers, like tattooists and health clubs are taking the high street by storm. On the other hand, travel agents and film development are gradually disappearing from the high street, replaced by digital technology and online providers.

In some respects, the high street is becoming more of a social environment than a shopping one; retailers that wish to stay relevant in this new landscape may find therefore it useful to play on the social aspect of retailing.

Much has been written about the death of the high street but the reality is that it has changed but not just for the reasons typically suggested. In fact, retail still offers opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures which understand current trends and the importance of the social side of current demand. Build a better mousetrap and the world will still beat a path to your door, provided you back it up with clever social marketing.

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