For years now we have been hearing that "the high street is dead". Doom and gloom has been the norm for those commenting on the future of physical stores and we hear of shops shutting constantly. But is the end really nigh?
Yes, it is true that the convenience of online shopping has made consumers feel differently about the act of going shopping, but does this difference mean that we no longer need stores?
I think not. All you need to do is look at the sheer volume of people queuing up in the Post Office every lunchtime to see that the convenience of online has it's pitfalls. Consumers will shop online, but end up returning most of what they have bought, simply because the fit, the spec or the features were not as sold.
I believe rather than dying out, the high street is instead going through a period of revolution. The fear mongering is making retail bosses think differently about what they offer in store vs. online, and this is no bad thing.
Physical stores have much to offer that online shopping simply can't match up to. Expert knowledge, the ability to try before you buy, and the ability to make product comparisons just don't work very well in the online world.
And real-world retail is, finally, waking up to this overhauling the shopping experience that they offer to cater to the evolving consumer needs. All you need to do is look at the recent changes at John Lewis & Partners to see this in action.
Consumer expectations are changing and retail needs to take stock and change their offerings accordingly, just how other industries have done - like the travel industry with it's own reinvention of the high street travel agent - in order to keep up with the pace and continue to thrive.
Except the stores of the future, she says, will step away from being places of pure transaction, to being places where retailers build a relationship with shoppers. “Future retail is moving from transactional to relational,” says Colker. “Brands will use the offline space to create more opportunities for people to connect with the products.”