Andy Budd, MD, Clearleft
20 years ago we faced a crisis on the high street. Small local retailers were being forced out of business by high street chains that offered greater selection and professional service at significantly lower prices. So newspapers bemoaned the death of the high street and laid the blame on big brands like Dixons and HMV.
Today we hear similar stories, although now online retailers are the baddies and our beloved high street chains are under threat. How times change. The irony is, the high street chains are losing out to etailers for the very reason they rose up in the first place: lower prices, better range and improved convenience.
So should we cry foul and blame the bigger ecommerce companies for having too much power? All we’ll be complaining about is the fact that they capitalised on the web and outmanoeuvred their bricks-and-mortar competitors. Wouldn’t it be more productive to see why some of these large chains failed and what small retailers and high street brands can do about it?
High street chains need to follow in the footsteps of the supermarkets and start retooling. Stop focusing just on physical stores and invest some serious money in online activities. This will undoubtedly bleed some companies dry, but it’d only be prolonging the inevitable. The ones that make the transition will hopefully be stronger than ever.
Should we bemoan the loss of average retailers selling average products with a poor customer experience? Or should we be thankful of the forest fire that’s raging on the high street and look at ways we can nurture the new shoots that spring up? I for one favour diversity over homogeneity and would like to see the UK become a nation of shopkeepers again.