60% of shoppers fear High Street will disappear
Written by Hannah McGrath
More than 60 per cent of UK shoppers fear the High Street may disappear entirely as consumers shift to online shopping.
A study of 1,000 shoppers conducted by KIS Finance and retail analysts at Estate Gazette found that Leeds and Glasgow were the cities worst hit by tough trading conditions.
The report also found that more than 1,500 retail stores entered into Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs), fell into administration or announced store closures, with shoppers increasingly concerned about the pace of decline.
The report estimated that tougher trading conditions on the High Street driven by declining footfall led to 50,000 job losses, including cuts at House of Fraser, Next, Toys R Us, Debenhams and Marks and Spencer.
James Child, retail analyst at Estate Gazette, who helped to compile the study, said that online shopping is fast approaching 20 per cent of total retail spend, with £1 in every £5 spent coming through internet sales.
Moreover, 64 per cent of those asked said they preferred to shop online because of the 24/7 availability of the goods they wanted to purchase.
Of the 75 per cent of people who said they now choose to shop at a mixture of online and in-store, those aged 35-34 were most likely to avoid heading to a local High Street altogether, with 18 per cent saying they did all of their shopping online.
Amongst various challenges to place pressure on on High Street retailers in 2018, Child identified “extortionate” rents and rising business rates, a fall in consumer confidence related to Brexit uncertainty, along with a failure on the part of retailers to update their in-store experience to keep up with consumer expectations.
Respondents said they had been deterred from shopping on the High Street because of the distance from their home, shop opening times, less choice than online inventory and confusion in navigating around the store.
“Some retailers are suffering natural decline by not offering consumers a reason to shop in their stores, suffering from outdated USP’s, with poor fiscal management and standing still in an environment that demands fast-paced evolution,” commented Child.
However, while High Street retailers are facing unprecedented challenges, he said that closures have left more than 18 million square feet of retail space vacant over the past year, opening up possibilities for alternative businesses such and food and beverage stores that can draw customers to entertainment, sports and health offers that are becoming more commonplace on High Streets.
For the High Street to evolve and survive, Child said it needs to offer “exemplary” retail spaces in addition to residential space and accommodation.
“The high street will become a physical manifestation of community, where people are able to live work and play in one social arena,” he concluded. “Supported by local authorities and the retailers that work to create those places special for those that live there.”