It’s a controversial statement, but how will the high street change if it doesn’t die?
Two years ago we wrote that the country is sleepwalking towards an empty High Street.
And since then, nothing has changed. Almost 10,000 retail jobs have been lost in the last year.
The High Street is no longer a town’s bustling hub. With rents and business rates going through the roof, many towns are little more than a collection of coffee shops, charity outlets and hairdressers.
Department stores are going bust and independent traders are swiftly following suit.
At the same time, there is an apathy among small business owners who are too scared to try something different because they can’t afford to take the risk.
Even when there is no risk.
If it doesn’t work – they will have run out of options and will be just another statistic.
Shoppers have changed
People want convenience with minimum interaction.
We have become so used to immediate answers to our questions, that there is little time for small talk; the personal service. That’s why we’re happy conversing with a chatbot rather than with a ‘real’ person.
We actively go out of our way to avoid human interaction.
It’s our own doing. Call centres became ‘off-shore’ call centres and when there was a backlash, we moved to machine learning with automation. The person at the end of the phone with the experience to solve a problem is surplus to requirements.
In our ‘order anything online for a fraction of the cost and send if back if we don’t like it’ world… the person in the shop is surplus to requirements.
Times have changed
We are a mobile-first generation. Everything is at our fingertips and all while we’re on the go.
To try and control the relentless advertising (because if you aren’t advertising then no-one will know your business exists) there are rules about how we are advertised to and by whom.
When we aren’t advertised to, we are ‘influenced’ in our choices.
Many small business owners wouldn’t know a GDPR rule if it slapped them in the face, so they stick with what they think works… what’s safe.
The A-frame board, a poster in a window, a Facebook post.
For any of the above to work, they all need the same thing: someone has to be walking past or looking at just the right time.
“You’ll miss the High Street when it’s gone”
Will we though?
The generation that used the High Street and its personal services are almost gone. The generation that will miss it… we’ll be missing them.
If the High Street is to reinvent itself, then it should probably die.