Is this really the beginning of the end for the High Street?

A recent survey showed that an average of 1 in 7 high street stores sit empty and in some town centres this is as high as 1 in 4. High profile activity from the government and Mary Portas is seeking to reverse this decline but is it too little too late?

A recent survey I conducted recently suggests that it is not too late and, in fact, Clothing retailers stand the best chance of surviving due to the needs of the customer.

THREATS – What are they?

Our nationally representative sample of 2,000 respondents were more likely to see the threat to clothing stores as coming from online retailers (61%) rather than supermarkets (44%).

But given the importance of wanting to see and touch the clothing before buying (74%), online retailers are never going to be able to compete on this basis.

Increasingly, while we hear that buying on line is ‘easy’, we also hear that returning and refunding is definitely not. (Catch up on Amy’s blog post here about Christmas shopping online)

Customers still like to browse for clothing. Even in times of recession, a clothing purchase can make you feel good. ‘Real’ stores exist to inspire and browsing is an important part of this. Sales are also an important part of apparel shopping and whilst the supermarkets and online retailers try to emulate this, the High Street is still the King of the feel-good sales purchase.

I think that making the environment as appealing as possible is absolutely key to keeping customers coming through the doors.

And don’t forget that a Click and Collect system allowing them to browse on line out of hours and then collect at the store (where they can try on and return immediately if it is not suitable) has a relatively high level of appeal (28%) and will grow.

I believe that while the technological opportunities offered to customers to shop have changed, the basic shopper journey has not.

The need states fulfilled by Clothing buying mean that a real store is still needed – it is up to the retailers to offer consumers the best experience.

For the full results of this survey including thoughts on eye-tracking and the digital shopper, please feel free to contact me on 01962 835387 or email

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Justine Boston
01962 842211
Article date - 09/05/2012
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