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High Street Retail Comeback

High street retailers are staging a comeback – and it looks set to last

Just when you thought you could safely say that shops on the high street are continuing to lose out to stores in retail parks and shopping centres, along comes some figures that turn this assumption upside down.   As we design and manufacture display systems for many independent high street retailers we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate their achievements!

Nobody saw that coming

Last year, the larger shopping centres regularly broke previous footfall records.  Westfield Stratford City, for instance, announced that they had exceeded their highest previous footfall level, set during the London Olympics five years ago.  A report by the British Retail Consortium from last October also showed that retail parks had been performing very well in terms of footfall.  These figures painted a picture of specialist retail destinations comfortably galloping ahead of shops on the high street.

So it was quite a surprise to see the latest results from the BRC-Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, released on March 20th.  These showed that visitor numbers for retail parks in February took a 1.6 percent fall, whereas in February 2016 they had jumped by a very positive 2.5 percent.    This represents the fastest rate of decline for this sector since 2013 and was matched by a 2.6 per cent decrease in footfall for shopping centres.  This is in marked contrast with the figures for shops on the high street, which showed a marginal increase.

Jurassic retail park?

What explains this shift?  Commenting on these figures Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, suggests that the more diverse offer presented by shops on the high street, many of whom are independents, explains their relative success.

While there is no immediate sense that the retail parks and shopping centres are set for long term decline some are suggesting that they could be losing a bit of their lustre.  Consumer behaviour analyst Lore Oxford, from consumer consultancy Canvas8, is quoted in a recent Retail Monitor article suggesting that shopping centres may be losing the experiential edge they once enjoyed.  She points out that these spaces became popular places to meet, especially for younger shoppers, but are now losing that appeal as these consumers increasingly prefer to congregate on social media.

Shoppers stay local

Another factor in favour of the high street, Lore Oxford suggests, is the consumer’s desire for stores that are seen to represent ‘authenticity’ and are more ‘indie’ and ‘local’.  The high street, rather than shopping centres and retail parks, is their natural habitat.  If you doubt the power of this trend just look at the way some major retailers are responding.   Lore Oxford gives the example of Southwold Books.  This small shop describes itself on its website as the “dedicated local bookshop in the heart of a thriving coastal community”, but on closer inspection is revealed to be part of Waterstones.  Likewise Harpenden Books in Hertfordshire.

Small is beautiful

What’s more, Lore Oxford suggests, many shoppers are actually finding the high street more convenient than driving through heavy traffic to out of town centres.  People, overwhelmed by too much choice and tiring of huge shed-like spaces, are preferring to “shop small”.  What’s more, the range of leisure and dining option on the high street is often better.   “It’s why IKEA opened IKEA Urban in Hamburg,” adds Oxford.   “The 18,000sq m store (while still huge) pales in comparison to IKEA’s average size of 28,000sq m.”

In the same article Mel Taylor, Chief Executive of Omnico, the point of sale software solutions provider, is quoted as saying that the high street’s more diverse offering gives it a great advantage. He comments that “Many retail parks fail to offer a more rounded leisure experience that tempts consumers away from shopping online.  High streets, by contrast are developing into multi-faceted destinations that meet the increasing demand for hospitality and lingering leisure experiences.”

High Street for the Future

Reports assuring us of the imminent death of the high street are, for all these reasons, extremely premature.  We look forward to supplying savvy independent retailers with well designed, good looking and cost effective display equipment for many years to come!



Dymond Shop Fittings

Dymond Engineering and Metal Products Ltd
Combrew Lane
Devon EX31 2ND

Tel: 01271 372662
Fax: 01271 322077

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"For more than 20 years Dymond have supplied us with innovative solutions at competitive prices, often within tight time scales."
Steve Rumsey, Railston Design

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