Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gone in 60 Clicks: Does the High Street Have a Future?

When was the last time you popped into a store on your High Street? Last week? Last month? Compare that to the amount of times you shop online and you may be able to see a problem. People simply aren't shopping in store anymore. So is this the beginning of the end for our traditional High Streets?

Your Local Convenience Store - Online

A recent report by the Centre for Retail Research claims that over 60,000 shops across the UK will close within 5 years, that's 22% of the High Street. The worst hit, the report states, will be pharmacies and health and beauty stores.

So why is it that more and more of us are ditching our local convenience stores for online convenience instead?

Well pricing is one of the main benefits of shopping online. At the click of a button you can compare the price of an item in order to find the cheapest deal and in this age of austerity, getting a bargain is as important as ever.

Convenience is another major issue. You can find almost anything you like on the Internet, whereas how often have you walked the length and breadth of the High Street searching for that one elusive gift? Or that essential item that simply isn't on the shelf? Yet in just a few clicks you can not only track down that item but order, pay for it and have it delivered straight to your door.

It's this convenience that shoppers have really taken to and in a surprising turn of events, it is this development that could prove to be the saviour of the High Street.

How Click and Collect Could Save the High Street

If you are not familiar with the concept of 'Click and Collect' then this is how it goes:

- You find what you want online

- You place an order

- Then rather than wait for it to be delivered to your door, you simply collect it at your local store

In many cases the 'Click and Collect' service is free and in some, the delivery charges are a fraction of the postage costs.

So how can this help our ailing High Street? Well one of the major issues with online shopping are:

- High delivery fees

- Delivery problems

Which? reported back in November 2012 that more than 60% of online shoppers experienced delivery problems whilst 1 in 10 had an issue with Christmas deliveries. Such problems encountered included the dreaded "Sorry you were out" cards when customers were most definitely in, parcels left out in the rain or with unknown neighbours.

It seems that the failure of our delivery service might just be the advantage that the High Street needed to get ahead.

Both John Lewis and Next hailed their 'Click and Collect' services for their sales boost back in Christmas 2012, as people found it easier to pop into their local store to collect their items, rather than wait in for the postman to deliver them.

And it's not just large stores which can reap the rewards. Local shops are being encouraged to become collection points for larger stores. For the customer this means that they can collect their gifts or items from their local village store at their own convenience and should there be a problem with the item, they can return it via the same store too. For the shopkeepers, it means more potential customers entering their store.

The High Street Fights Back

It's not just the 'Click and Collect' service which might save our High Street, so might the shoppers themselves. For amidst the doom and gloom are actual figures and according to the BBC, those actual figures indicate that 90% of our expenditure each year comes from the High Street.

It appears that we still like to see and touch the goods before we buy them, which is persuading many online retailers to go back to bricks and mortar. Shopping, for many of us, is an enjoyable social experience that we like to do with family and friends and whilst that remains part of our culture there will always be a place for the High Street.