Here’s the thing; the chances are when asked ‘So, what are you doing this weekend?’ you’ll answer from one of three – 1. Working (at home or at work) 2. Nothing much, or 3. Shopping.
And here’s the thing – I wrote a blog after reading the excellent Shutting Up Shop: The Decline of the Traditional Small Shop by John Londei almost 7 years ago, yet closures march on like credits at the end of a movie as evermore stores are announced; Toys-R-Us, Maplin, Mothercare, Carpetright, MultiYork … No, they’re not traditional small shops but some started out as small businesses and they’re certainly shutting up shop.
In the main, shopping has become ever more a leisure activity moving away from the ‘I’ve got the shopping to do at the weekend’ (meaning trudging around the supermarket armed with a list and needing a couple of paracetamol at the finish line) necessity routine.
With visual storefronts being the ‘book of choice’ for many (Instagram recently launched a shopping function whereby a tap on a tagged post can result in a purchase without a search) and direct-to-consumer being offered through various routes, strikes to retail were first marked when Woolworths was brought to its knees, competition from online shopping as a contributing (and usual ongoing reason). Department stores seem to battle through, responding with their available purchase choices, discounts, customer incentives and, for those who’ve fared better than others, the timing of freehold acquisition or a merger (not a scaling merger) has managed to get them through the bad times.
Here’s the thing; with leisure and food favoured by consumers it will be interesting to see how retailers respond with the ongoing shapeshifting of high streets – the original internet café could seem ready as a museum piece compared to what might be on offer: virtual reality arcades with turbo-charged coffee. And, with retailers looking to the outside of London for consumer spenders, could this be a much-needed turning point mix for some High Streets?