The New Year hasn’t started so well for many high street retailers. Media reports suggest that footfall in major shopping centres may have fallen by almost as much as 50% during peak New Year sales periods when compared to last year. Meanwhile, big high street names like Next, Debenhams and Halfords have all seen their share prices taking a battering due to sluggish Christmas sales and gloomy economic forecasts.
You might think as a technology company in the online retail space (which is booming) we’d be delighted with this news. You’d be wrong. A struggling high street is not good news for anyone.
While we work, shop and play in the online world – we all live in the real world and nobody wants to see the beating heart of our towns and cities torn apart by retail failure.
This is why we believe that the high street needs to re-invent itself.
It’s time for the real world of retail to fully embrace the online economy.
This means high street retailers should become extensions of their online brands and not the other way around.
A high street store should be able to offer everything an online store does, including:
- Next day (or even same day) delivery – nobody wants to carry loads of bags home on the bus or the train
- Free, no-quibble returns (by mail)
- Targeted offers (powered by email)
- Constantly updated pricing – ensuring customers get the best possible deals
- Detailed product information (think how much information is featured on website sales page – this same information should be readily available to high street shoppers
- 247/365 service (because nobody works a standard 9 to 5 anymore)
- The perception of unlimited stock – regardless of store size (aided by staff armed with tablets)
- Instore online ordering (many “showrooming” customers already do this, often placing orders via rival retailers)
This might seem like a tall order but many of these changes could be rolled out with relevant ease. It’s a question of wanting of change, rather than resisting it.
Retail staff will need to be provided with the technology and training to better serve their customers. Retail premises will need to be adapted, perhaps shifting their focus from retail display to a more logistic role. High street stores and online operations should be fully integrated and accountable as the revenue generating units regardless of how the sale is made (in much the same way an online retailer would attribute various “touch points” such as paid search, affiliate partners, etc. in their online sales funnel).
Ultimately, we can see a time, in the not too distant future, when high street retail is seen as more of a marketing activity than the be-all and end-all of a retailer’s business.
SKU Cloud provides a valuable solution for high street retailers who want to adapt to a more modern, more robust and more profitable route to market. Join the retail revolution here.