Once again we read the same news report. If it hasn't already died, the high street is surely dying.
However for once I'm not convinced by the main arguments as to why. This article from The Times focuses on the 'unseasonably cold weather' that kept us keen consumers away from the high street. Surely cold weather is more likely to drive punters into shops though? When you consider how little else there is to do during a typically drizzly day in the UK, the shops often seem a great starting point.
The main issue here seems unlikely to be weather and, for once, it doesn't seem to be the rise of the online giants either. The article reports that while online shopping was the only category to grow, it still recorded its worst performance since the CBI began collecting this data 10 years ago.
So, are we simply shopping a lot less than we used to and, if so, why? As the article reports, wages are rising and unemployment is at its lowest since the 1970s, so money seems unlikely to be the issue. The report notes the risks of a no-deal Brexit and global trade tensions could be having an effect, but I'm not sure I know many shoppers who consider this before heading out to Oxford Street.
Instead, it seems to be true that we are simply becoming more focused on experiences in place of goods. Today's young people are much more likely to drop their salary on flights to Budapest, instead of a new dress from Topshop (which coincidentally cost around the same). Back in the day, my grandmother would never have considered a long weekend in Lisbon and instead would have totted off to John Lewis to spend her pay-pack. It's simply a matter of choice and what is available and, on the whole, humans are much more interested in an experience in place of an object.
However many would argue that the high street is an important part of any community, and perhaps something we need in the face of a loneliness epidemic. So, the question for retailers and businesses across the country is how to make shopping and the high street an experience in itself, instead of just a process. It's no easy challenge but the retailer who cracks it will find themselves with a much brighter business future.
Retail sales fell at their fastest pace in a decade in the year to June as unseasonably cold weather kept shoppers away from the high street. According to the CBI, retail sales fell to a net balance of -42 per cent in June, with 16 per cent of the survey’s 88 respondents reporting that volumes were up but 58 per cent indicating that they were down. The overall figure compared with a reading of -27 in May. Although rising wages and low unemployment had been supporting consumer spending, the business lobby group noted that economic growth had slowed considerably in the second quarter of this year while the risks of a no-deal Brexit and global trade tensions had escalated.