May 5, 2013 Leave a comment
When it was recently announced that HMV had called in the administrators, there was a general feeling of sadness among those of us who remember rushing along there on a Saturday afternoon to buy the latest 7” single with our pocket money. HMV is the latest in a long line of retailers who have failed to move with the times and have collapsed over the last few years. Names such as Woolworths, Peacocks, Habitat, Jessops, Oddbins, Comet and Clinton Cards have all either gone bankrupt or have had to drastically scale back their operations. All these store closures are greatly affecting the make-up of the town High Street, both now and in the future.
There is no doubt that the way we are shopping is changing. We are more price conscious than ever, and if we can download our music more cheaply than going into town and buying a CD, we will. Increasingly we are moving to digital downloads for all of our entertainment needs, so there is no need for a physical shop selling that sort of product. Apart from digital products, we are also buying more online from traditional department store type retailers. The concept of being able to browse the website from the comfort of your sofa, order the items with a few clicks and return them quickly and easily if they don’t fit means that traditional stores are having to work harder than ever to get our business. Some stores, notably John Lewis, are weathering the storm but most are finding the trading climate very tough.
Many experts believe that in the years to come we will see retail businesses continuing to decline, and that High Streets will switch to being more of a leisure destination than a shopping one. Cafés, coffee shops, sandwich bars, restaurants and pubs have all taken over vacant shop units, and are helping to keep people spending in the areas where shops have had to close. However, it remains to be seen whether a few coffee shops and a good gastro-pub is enough to attract people into the centre of the town or city to spend their free time. There is also considerable resistance to this change in emphasis from people who live in the town centres.
Some of the retailers which have been performing better are those which offer a very specialist product which is much more difficult to source online. Artisan bakeries and cake shops are doing well, as even when times are tough we want to treat ourselves and we haven’t the time to bake anything ourselves. Stores such as Yarnfest are cashing in on the current knitting revival and have recognised that although people are keen to get into knitting and crochet, they need some practical advice and instruction to get started. Some of the most clever niche retailers like Yarnfest and some of the delicatessen type stores also have started to trade online, opening up their products to a much wider market.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Morag Peers is a guest bogger who regularly writes on topics surrounding retail and the economic environment in the UK. On this occasion Morag has written for Yarnfest, a retailer who not only sells great products like Artesano Aran online, but offline too in their bricks and mortar store.