High Street Shops

SOS – Save Our Stores

Marketing has a vital role to play in keeping local high streets alive…

It’s not looking good for bricks-and-mortar stores on the high streets at the moment – House of Fraser has recently cut more than half of its UK stores, leaving 6,000 jobs in its wake, while Toys R Us has also said a sad goodbye to shoppers.

And even high street stalwarts M&S, Waitrose and Mothercare have announced a series of store closures.

Of course, everyone’s first thought is that online shopping is killing off our high streets and it’s true that, according to the Office for National Statistics, online sales are up 20% on last year.

And yet, according to research by Vista Retail Support 81% of UK consumers consider the physical store vital to their shopping experience and 70% say they enjoy browsing in a real-life store. So it seems there is hope for our high street shops after all.

So what do we do?

What marketers should be endeavouring to do is to marry up their real-life and online experiences – taking the best bits of both and making them work for each other. One of the things that online shopping can’t recreate is the human interaction – so that is something that should be made much of in store.

Beauty brand Lush has cleverly worked this into its offering – online you’ll find huge numbers of YouTube videos of staff demonstrating the latest bath bombs and other goodies, encouraging shoppers to go into a high street store to recreate the experience. Their staff also give away little gifts – it may be a free sample, or sometimes even a whole shop for a special shopper. Examples of these feel-good moments are frequently shared on social media – again encouraging people to visit the physical shop.

Waitrose has also cottoned on to this – stories about its free cups of coffee for card holders and random freebies given away to shoppers all find their way onto social media, enhancing the stores’ reputation with very little outlay.

And the expert help available in store is also invaluable. ‘Showrooming’ is a term used to describe shoppers who go to a showroom, get advice on a certain item or gadget – let’s say it’s a camera – and then whip out their phone to see if they can get their chosen item cheaper online. But if the digital offering is available instore, staff can help shoppers find online reviews and other information and still walk away with the sale.

Many stores now enable shoppers to make an online purchase in-store – even if the item is not available in store at that time – and the store is also used for pickup and returns. Sports Direct offers a £5 voucher for shoppers who pick up online orders in store, encouraging more real-life shopping.

Making the bricks and mortar store a destination is going to be the way forward – let’s get together and spend Saturday afternoon shopping online, said no one, ever. Consumers want the experience, the stop off for coffee, perhaps a nice gossip over lunch. You can’t recreate that online.

How to create an experience

Making the high street shop an experience is the way forward – Westfield London’s recent retail concept, Destination 2028, is the ideal example – this futuristic mall setup shows waterways, indoor farms, mindfulness workshops, magic mirrors, reading rooms and more.

For the local high street, the great aim is to enable the local community to interact – campaigning organisation SaveTheHighStreet.org has just launched its 2018 manifesto with the aim of helping the high street to thrive, with local businesses not struggling to survive but investing to grow.

Local magazines, such as Tring and Berkhamsted’s Living Magazines, can help to reinforce the community feel of the high street and highlight the individuality and expertise of the people who run these businesses.

In its ideal world, the SaveTheHighStreet manifesto states, every local high street business has a clear plan and the skills, tools and support to execute it.

While the group is looking at creating a level playing field in terms of cost structure, covering everything from tax to property, people to product and more, there are marketing strategies that can help local high street businesses to grow and succeed.

If you would like to have a chat about your marketing requirements, please call Alison Page on tel: 07963 002065 or email: hello@alisonpagemarketing.co.uk. You can of course browse our website to see what our existing clients have to say about our work.

Living Magazines is a trading name of Alison Page Marketing. Visit the website at www.livingmags.info.