Sales & Marketing

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Could SMEs save the high street?

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Yesterday’s retail figures from the CBI showed a mixed picture, as sales growth failed to meet expectations in October, with grocers seeing particularly disappointing performance.

Whilst the economy appears to be one the way out of difficulty, it’s not yet clear how much this success will feed into Britain’s high streets.

While the consumer may soon feel they have more money in the bank and an increased appetite to spend, it could be that their habits have changed for good, turning to shopping centres and online, rather than returning to their local merchants.

Finding a solution to high-street decline has been a hot topic in recent years, with everything from free town centre parking to a tax on online sales touted as a silver bullet.

The government even brought on board Mary Portas, “Queen of Shops”, as an adviser, but as yet her changes have seen less than conclusive results.

Research from Kantar Retail commissioned by Groupon found that while 42 per cent of consumers prefer the convenience of shopping online, 58 per cent prefer the personal service offered by shopping in-store.

More than seven tenths of consumers said they want to see a greater range of independent shops on their high street, something that SMEs could seek to benefit from.

The research also found that consumers want to see more variety in their shops, as 31 per cent want more clothes shops, 30 per cent want to see more artisan food shops and 20 per cent want to see more book shops.

On the other hand many consumers expect betting shops, mobile phone shops and estate agents to disappear from the high street within five years. 

Bryan Roberts, director of retail insights at Kantar Retail, said: “The future High Street is shaping up to be very different to how it appears now – the fact that shoppers demand to see a wider variety of businesses matches what we are seeing in the industry.

“High Streets will be less reliant on retail, and more focused on broader hospitality, leisure and service facilities to encourage people to meet socially and interact more with the local community.”

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