Compared to other failing parts of the economy, the decline in traditional retail is very visible to all to see. We Brits have, for hundreds of years, used the high street as a visual representation of a booming economy with busy shops and happy shoppers meaning things were all good, even if under the surface they were far from it.
Perhaps surprisingly to some, prior to the Coronavirus crisis, the fact stood that the highstreet accounted for the vast majority of UK retail spending with online accounting for only 19.9% (July 2019).
Traditional retail is fraught with problems which makes the slightest decline in shopping behaviour terminal for some businesses. Sky-high leases and ever-increasing business rates, staffing issues & all the other problems associated with running and operating a physical store. For online retailers, their warehouse setups are usually cheaper to run, their websites are far more efficient and require fewer people to run but most importantly are incredibly dynamic to changes in demand.
So just when the highstreet needed it least, the Coronavirus crisis happened and we are all locked-down in our homes with our phones & laptops being our primary & safest means of shopping. Thank goodness we have this option and some big online retailers can continue to operate, less good news for the traditional high street.
Amazon boss is said to have seen his wealth swell by $24bn (£19bn) after soaring demand for online shopping sent the firm’s share price to a new high. Our own client Raleigh Bikes has seen an 800% increase in sales of kids bikes, another retailing activity which may have previously involved a visit to a store has now been replaced by online, perhaps permanently for some.
The other thing to consider is many people simply didn’t want to learn how to shop online and were happy heading to the shops each Saturday to buy what they need. These people have been forced by the state to learn, and may never return to their previous way of shopping as they realise the convenience of online.
Without the Coronavirus pandemic, online retail was set to grow 30% by 2024 but surely as we start to raise our heads from this cruel and ruthless pandemic our lives will be moved further online & the high street will feel the unbearable strain again.
The time has come for the realisation that the high-street will never return to how it used to be & we need to think creatively to make sure we utilise these historic places for new uses. Online retail will undoubtedly win the retail battle, perhaps in a bigger way and far quicker than any of us envisaged.