Decline of UK high streets – why some grow and others disappear

High street retailers should avoid treating their stores as expensive ‘click and collect’ venues for online sales – and start taking note of the brands that are bucking the trend.

According to the Independent today, the high street has delivered its worst performance in twelve years.  There’s so much speculation about what’s wrong with retail, but do we really know? Business rates, increasing rents, erratic or lack of consumer spending and the internet are just some of the issues faced by UK retailers, but why do some brands fail while others enjoy continued sales success?

Who’s winning on the high street?

Here’s a few:

  • Zara announced sales were up 13% on previous year
  • Primark grew 7%
  • 18% sales boost for Joules
  • JD Sports enjoyed a 3% rise in first quarter

Give us shoppers choice

Wanting to find something a little different, I recently went on a shopping trip in Surrey – home to some of the finest high street brand names. My shopping bag, however, came back empty.

I’d been online the night before to give myself an idea of what was available. I’d found 7 items I adored in just one shop so anticipated this was going to be a successful day’s shopping. What I experienced was the complete reverse. I was realistic; I knew that I wouldn’t have the same choice as online, but what I didn’t expect were outlets with not a lot of stock (certainly not any of the seven items I’d fell in love with online).

Moving from shop to shop, the range of clothes that were available also seemed very similar – it started to feel somewhat like the fashion industry was in political cahoots – forcing us into wearing a dystopian type uniform of dull grey!

Let’s Not do the time-warp again…

Entering other stores, it felt a little like going back in time – perhaps some brands are just playing their collections too safe or they should avoid reinventing fashions that should never make a come back.

My high street experience subsequently ended with me coming home and ordering online. 

Retail influencers

Looking at the retailers like Zara and Primark – they offer lots of in-house choice. Albeit low price, their stock is fast moving, so you know in Zara if you see something you like – you need to buy it there and then as it won’t be there next time.

Primark totally bucks the trend by not even physically selling online – in fact they use the internet in reverse…telling customers what they can experience when they visit a shop.

Both Zara and Primark’s strategies are working. They attract a diverse audience of both young and old, with Primark breaking down barriers of price and choice.

Let’s hope the high street survives, but as with any business, you need to truly understand your marketplace, competition and other risks, target audience and balance this with your cost of sales to ensure you can remain profitable.

Need help understanding how to boost your sales, we’re a marketing agency that understands the point – and gets straight to it.  Talk to us in confidence about how to get your business on the right track. Call 01256 536 000.