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SMEs are thriving on the high street – here's why

6 min read

26 July 2019

Statistics from the past two years show it's smaller retailers offering higher-grade goods, services and a better customer experience that are winning the high street battle.

Shopping, queuing for food and a few impulse purchases are just some of the standard motions of a day out on the British high street today – but this is changing, and changing fast.

Increasingly, consumers can make most of their purchases from the comfort of their own homes via the likes of online clothing retailer ASOS, or indulging in the fast-food fixes of Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

Knowing what we know about the e-commerce revolution, the claim that the internet will account for half of the UK retail sales in 10 years’ time is no big surprise.

Whilst this might make larger businesses jump on the digital bandwagon and move their operations online, (many already have), there are more commercial opportunities for SME retailers on the high street right now than you might think.

SME retailers, and especially those that provide grooming services, are faring well on the high street this year.

Some services can’t be digitised (yet)

It’s no surprise that small businesses offering niche services (that encourage frequent visits and consumer loyalty) are the ones that seem to be dodging the closing down signs on British high streets.

One example of the types of SME businesses winning the high street war are beauty based businesses. For example, 495 beauty salons opened in the UK in 2018, whilst male grooming salons also saw as many as 813 stores open.

Why is this happening?

In an age where it’s very easy to retreat into our homes and avoid face to face exchanges when it comes to clothes and grocery shopping, consumers remain willing to go out for services that improve their reflection thanks (in no small part) to social media.

Whilst grooming services are starting to make an appearance on apps, such as ‘come to your house’ style massage services, we’re still a way off from these services becoming available across the country –  meaning that consumers are still willing to frequent the high street for the types of services many you still can’t fully do online.

The health food craze and the high street

In 2019 alone, sales of organic produce racked up a healthy £2.3 3 billion in the UK, amounting to an impressive 5.3% growth compared to the previous year.

Statistics such as the above prove that consumer eating habits have veered towardly the healthy, with a rise in the opening of whole-food stores and dietary specific cafes being a clear reflection of that.

For example, 30% of wholefood sales now take place on the high street, signifying how high street spenders are becoming more health-conscious than ever.

The sea-change in consumer eating habits on the high street is also reflected in the closing down of mid-level chain restaurants. After all, there is no need to travel for a basic run of the mill meal when that void can be filled by a quick delivery service that the likes of Deliveroo or Uber Eats provide.

highstreet

When it comes to ‘eating out’ on the high street, consumers are favouring more boutique and health-conscious establishments.

Consumers are thinking about impact

Today, buyers are provided with large amounts of information about where their goods are sourced from. Reports released about the allusive world of fast fashion have been enough for many high street goers to take a step back and think about what they’re buying.

This leaves room in the market for independent SME retailers to promote themselves as purveyors of higher product quality, unique offerings –  and better customer experience.

Supreme was once an SME retailer itself. Today, it makes its stores the centre of action for customers.

Face to face purchases still matter

Even major store-based retailers and online brands are sitting up and taking the pop-up shop trend seriously. However, this clever method of marketing is easiest for SME retailers to adopt due to their smaller size. This gives the feeling of exclusivity and excitement that modern consumers enjoy if they are to make an effort and visit a store.

Why SMEs are winning the high street retail race

The brands that are winning the high street race in 2019 are those that have challenged the stereotypical high street experience with unique and higher quality customer-facing goods and services.

People no longer need to impatiently wait in long-standing queues to access affordable goods and experience poor customer service – so if they can bypass that by ordering online they will.

This is why SME retailers must take advantage of the gap between fast-paced online services, and dying high-street mega brands, to capture the heads and hearts of consumers with higher-quality goods and services with the personal touch that only they can offer.