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The only way to get the high street back up and running is with independent retailers. This was the opinion of Best-one boss James Hall at an RN future of symbol group retailing roundtable event on Monday (see RN 16 November for the full write up).
Mr Hall gave the example of two similarly sized high streets he knows well. One has hardly any independent businesses and is “deserted and hopeless”. The other has a mix of family-run butchers, hairdressers and newsagents alongside the likes of Dorothy Perkins and WH Smith, and is thriving. “Without independents, an area is dead,” he says.
Mr Hall will take heart from the comments of Jon Copestake, a retailer analyst for The Economist, who I met to discuss ‘retail in 2022’ on Tuesday.
The two major trends, he predicts, will be convenience and ‘showrooming’ – where online traders physically advertise their products in a store. Internet shopping is going to grow elevenfold by just 2017, but consumers will still want to look at and touch products, and buy what they want, when they want it.
In order to thrive, Mr Copestake says independent stores must differentiate themselves by selling products not available in chain stores. Local stores selling local goods, coupled with great service and a consumer focus will succeed.
Meanwhile, news broke this week that leading figures from the retail, property and banking worlds will be linking up to form a high street taskforce to rejuvenate town centres.
It is vital that this group follows the advice of these two retail experts and takes into consideration the importance of indepenedent retail to the commercial mix of the high street.
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