Time Shop: The High Street of the Future
We have waved goodbye to Woolworths and its legendary pick ‘n’ mix, we saw the heartbreaking closure of childhood wonderland, Toys R Us, and even department store royalty, House of Fraser, is struggling to keep up the footfall. Changing consumer habits and advancing technology is taking its toll, spelling uncertain times for the high street as we know it. But is it true what they say? Is the high street really dead?
Quite the contrary, in fact. Our nation’s beloved bricks and mortar retail sector is simply evolving, not dying. Taking the challenges on board and adapting stores to accommodate them, retailers are certainly not giving up without a fight. We took a look at the exciting developments currently transforming the high street today and used our findings to imagine what the shopping experience of the future would look like. Let’s have a browse …
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It’s All About the Experience
Rich experiences is the key theme of the future high street, and one which retailers are beginning to embrace. It is no longer enough for stores to simply arrange products on shelves and rails and expect customers to flock there; they can do that online without getting off the sofa. Instead, they need to create destinations and experiences; something with memorable, touchable value that will make a physical visit more rewarding than an online spree.
Creating true experiences can transform dead towns and empty streets into bustling attractions. The introduction of the Altrincham Markets, for example, saw the area’s ‘ghost town’ reputation give way to recognition as a true ‘day out’ destination. And filling ‘dead space’ with relevant concessions such as coffee shops, prosecco bars, florists and artistic activity stations are just some of the ways that retailers are encouraging customers to spend more time in store and improve the quality of their experience.
High Street Classics & Retail Theatre
We’re also happy to report that the high street classics such as the bookshops, barbers and coffee shops are continuing to thrive. Barbers in particular are taking advantage of the increased vacancy rates, snapping up the smaller retail units and creating independent, affordable alternatives to the highly priced premium hairstyling chains.
Big name retailers such as Topshop and Topman are also determined to take advantage of the current climate by introducing in-store digital experiences to make themselves stand out from the average storefront. Exciting interactive touch points such as virtual reality scenes, DJ booths and activities create immersive experiences, positive brand associations and good memories for customers, while transforming the physical face of the high street for the better.
Online Meets Offline
No longer two separate entities, the internet and the high street are now merging to create one all-encompassing hybrid shopping experience. Retail theatre experiences are naturally social media shareable, while pop up stores are becoming big business for former online-only stores looking to broaden their horizons. And, while some online-only stores are branching out into physical retail spaces, other bricks and mortar retailers are doing the exact opposite by creating new hybrid concept stores. Nordstrom, for example, has created ‘Nordstrom Local’, a physical clothing store with no stock. Customers can order online and come to the store to pick up and try on clothing, therefore reducing the amount of retail space needed.
Retail to Residential
The UK’s high streets are also set to become partly residential in the coming years. Empty retail spaces are being converted into residential homes and apartments, which could reverse the housing shortage the UK is currently witnessing. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 new homes could be created simply by using and converting these empty retail spaces, transforming the dynamic of our high streets forever.
So while the high street is indeed becoming almost unrecognisable compared to the shopping experiences we’ve become accustomed to, it most certainly is not dead or dying. The high street is merely evolving into a more relevant, engaging and future-proof experience where offline meets online and the old meets the new.