What do you think needs to be done to save the UK high street?
Following the news that Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster are going into administration, what do you think needs to be done to save the UK high street?
‘High street retail needs to get personal to stay relevant. A braver mix of localised retail and leisure formats would engage and bring a renewed sense of purpose back to the high street. New formats that complement, not oppose, destination shopping malls and inject a more sensory interaction that internet shopping simply cannot replicate, no matter how hard it tries. Physical stores are part of a wider multi-channel customer journey and to stay relevant we need to embrace their enhanced role as centres of inspiration, play and personalised, face-to-face service. Home Depot for example, in the US, has created neighbourhood stores providing top-up DIY products and community classes for learning new skills – DIY projects carried out in local stores are affiliated with nearby schools and community facilities, so everyone benefits. This is just one of many clever socially-oriented retail formats that could bring fresh inspiration and revenue back to the high street.’
Julie Oxberry, managing director and founder, Household
‘The UK high street needs to refocus on creating unique shopping experiences. Retailers must innovate and come up with creative ways to entertain and engage their customers over and above optimising rack space. Hamley’s does this brilliantly by creating a children’s wonderland – unpacking toys and encouraging play; it’s an intrinsic part of their brand. In contrast, Blockbuster didn’t attempt to re-create the magic of film inside their stores – and so it became about convenience and price – where online services won. Retailers need to rediscover the best attributes of their brands and bring them to life through engaging customer experiences.’
Dave Dunlop, creative director of digital, The Team
‘Rather like the national football squad, we have high hopes for the high street, but feel constantly disillusioned by its performance. We say England should do better, yet we still prefer Sky + to a rainy away game in Belarus and think fancy training academies are a waste of money. Similarly, shoppers bemoan the loss of the high street whilst schlepping out to retail “outlets” and are convinced the local electrical store “sees me coming”. Mary Portas is right, the high street needs more true supporters who turn up on Saturdays, not commentators. It needs grass-root retail education and role models so five year olds want to grow up to be millionaire shopkeepers as well as goalkeepers.’
Chris Moody, creative director, Wolff Olins
‘High Street retailers should not be scared of technology; they should bring it in store. The direction many retailers take with digital is wrong - devices should not be shoe-horned into the shopper’s world. It is the customer experience that has to be at the centre of the proposition, not the technology. Relevant technology best enhances the shopper experience via customer-controlled content and without interfering with their course of trial and purchase. Used effectively technology can help margins, improve training and allow sales representatives to become better brand ambassadors.’
Michael Sheridan, chairman and founder, Sheridan&Co
‘I have great hopes for the independent and start-up entrepreneurial retailers to flourish and bring forward a new wave of shops, which are individual, usually design savvy and cater for the locality they are serving. The “one size fits all” multiples are important in city centres and shopping malls, but the smaller businesses can flourish and bring a breath of fresh air to local high streets because they are small enough to care. Give me Rough Trade East instead of HMV anytime for my vinyl collection.’
Callum Lumsden, creative director at Lumsden Design
‘Instead of harking back to days gone by, like several recent incentives, look forward instead. We’re the mall-generation. We like the comfort, the ease, the attraction of a mall. How is a mall different from the high street? It has a roof and plenty of parking. Easy then, put a roof over it and put parking underneath it and the high street becomes the same attraction. Job done?’
Steve James-Royle, founder and creative director, The Yard Creative
‘I wrote a piece for the Guardian on this very subject. I would add though that we are hardly going to miss Blockbuster or Jessops are we? Blockbuster is described as a video and DVD retailer. Now I have a great collection of ’70s and ’80s videos… but I look at the covers and then watch the films online or on DVD. The excitement is in the watching of the film, not the browsing through an ill-conceived yellow and blue shed.’
Wayne Hemingway, co-founder, Hemingway Design