Can the internet and high street both prosper at the same time is a big question. Until recently, British high streets had remained relatively unchanged, in terms of appearance and sales, since the shopping ‘revolution’ and rise of supermarkets in 1960s. However, the increase in e-commerce and online retail is currently threatening the future existence of high street retail outlets and physical shops, in the UK. Brits spend more money online than any other nation; on average spending $5,900 per person each year (Source: http://uk.businessinsider.com/future-british-high-street-internet-brexit-retail-2017-8). This has taken its toll on UK high street sales with a 2.2% decline between 2008 to 2015 (http://uk.businessinsider.com/future-british-high-street-internet-brexit-retail-2017-8).
Can high street retailers reinvent their purpose?
However, in this technologically enhanced era, high streets might exist to serve a different purpose. The higher conveniences online retail provides consumers may lead to an adaptation of the traditional role of the UK high street retailers rather than an eradication of it.
Will the high street become a ‘dead duck’ within 10 years?
A report from Parcelhero (Source: https://www.parcelhero.com/content/downloads/pdfs/high-street/deathofthehighstreetreport.pdf) suggested that if the current growth of internet sales and decline in high street sales persists then by 2030 half the existing stores in the UK will disappear, suggesting closures of around 100,000 UK retail outlets.
Will the high street reach a tipping point and disappear?
By 2030, e-commerce is predicted to account for 40% of UK retail sales (Source: https://www.parcelhero.com/content/downloads/pdfs/high-street/deathofthehighstreetreport.pdf). This is forecasted to lead to a tipping point for such industries as supermarkets, department stores, fashion outlets and many established brands where if they fail to adapt their operations to online services then they will struggle to remain competitive.
How should the High Street reinvigorate itself and find a new purpose
It is undeniable that online retail is taking over. However, this could lead to a changing role for high streets from being the central point in which consumers go to get all their items to providing a form of leisure for consumers. An in-store experience is totally different to that of one you get from ordering goods off a computer. High streets will always have their USP from the social and atmospheric elements it provides. Therefore, for high streets to survive firms must focus more on the customer experience. Take Tesco for example, putting in Harris + Hoole coffee shops into their bigger stores to enhance the customer experience.
Online and traditional high street can have a great future together
Internet and technology have taken over many aspects of our lives. This is no truer as for retail sales, with the increased convenience and ability to compare a mass of products leading to e-commerce taking the lion’s share of consumer spending. However, this does not mean that both online and offline retail cannot prosper side by side. This is supported from statistics from Springborad’s showing that visits to UK high streets increased by 0.8% in the first half of 2017. The role of the high street has naturally changed to one in which consumers go for the actual experience of shopping rather than the end goal of getting the given good.
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