Smarter High Streets – When Opportunity Knocks.

Year on year, figures are rising, culminating in the closure of what were once much loved brands such as; Toys R Us, Maplin, Carpetright, Prezzo and Poundland to name a few, and the knock-on impact of diminishing local high streets.

Bursting the Bubble

In recent weeks, as major retailers announce their annual profits, with the distinctive characteristic of more sales online and less in store, the future of UK high streets is firmly back in the spotlight once more, for all the wrong reasons.

It is no secret UK high streets are struggling to compete. Even with government think tanks such as the Future High Street Forum in place to help restructure local high streets, to the naked eye, for many UK communities, there are very few signs of change. Taking a closer look at this conundrum, it seems almost unfathomable as to why some UK retailers, particularly chains and those generating significant profits each year, stubbornly resist the need to adopt business models in line with consumer demands and the need for improved customer experiences.

Rewind twenty years ago and it was a different story. The crash, which lasted from the year 2000 to 2002, threatened to burst the internet bubble with over 50% of online businesses falling victim to technology speculation. Whilst back then, the issue with online trading was completely the reverse of what is happening now, one of the main similarities between then and now is, despite numerous warnings, the all too familiar failure to act in time led to their demise.

Back to the future

Fast forward to today, giants such as Amazon and Apple have undoubtedly managed to successfully weather the storm and go on to dominate their respective markets. Providing online experiences people actually need and want.

To some, gaining competitive advantage through local high street sales may seem like an almost impossible task, with waning profits and increased business rates adding to the bargain.

However, despite this somewhat grim synopsis of the current landscape, not all is lost. Signs of burgeoning customer experiences with the potential to buck the current trend and entice consumers back to the high street are beginning to manifest both in the UK and further afield.

The John Lewis Partnership is a prime example, with a growing number of boutique hotels and the added allure of their new roof top garden situated at their flagship store in Oxford Street. The retail giant, has begun to embrace novel solutions designed to change their fortunes combining shopping with luxury breaks, ice skating, tasty treats and beverages.

It’s a Doddle

From a more practical perspective, many local high street retailers do not have the luxury or capacity to offer the ‘roof top garden experience’. They can however, start looking at ways to embrace the shift in consumer spending, through provision of innovative products and services the internet of things simply cannot provide.

Incorporated in 2014, Doddle Parcel Services Limited is one such solution. Collaborating with over 100 retailers, Doddle’s mission is to “make click and collect the preferred delivery choice for customers, retailers and carriers”. With the primary aim of being able to save customers time.

Now operating from over 300 locations in the UK, whilst still only in its infancy, the business model itself shows sign of promise. Whether this is sign of things to come remains to be seen. One thing that is certain, is that high street retailers and small businesses alike need to take advantage of new opportunities resulting from technological advancement and the introduction of Smart Cities. Creating smarter high streets that are built to last.