The phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’ was coined by the economist Herbert Spencer back in 1864 as a result of reading Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’. With only a basic understanding of biology (or economics for that matter) it’s easy to see how the UK High Street is going through its own process of Natural Selection.
We all know that whatever you can buy in a shop you’re more than likely to find online and quite possibly, cheaper. So the big question for retailers is ‘what are shops for?’ Although Philip Green of Arcadia is planning on closing 200 stores over the next three years, look at the brands that are continuing to thrive; Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge. And the brands that may be a drag on the business? Dorothy Perkins, Burtons and Evans. That doesn’t seem like a big surprise to me.
Topshop and Topman have taken the old linear, location-based model of shopping and have reinvented themselves for what Fitch refer to as a ‘seamless’ world – one in which customers can shop anywhere, anytime and are confidently jumping between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ paths to purchase. Their stores are disruptive, engaging and experiential – the perfect expression of their brand. Where else can you shop for the latest affordable fashion, get a sharp haircut and meet friends in a café – all in one space? The website is simple and intuitive; the blog, informed and inspirational. Not to mention the cool collaborations, pop-up experiences, secret stores and mobile gaming.
So UK retail is reaching a tipping point and for retailers the ‘fittest’ means relevance and experience. But beyond the doom and gloom there is the tantalising prospect that the high street could actually benefit from the dinosaurs dying out and a new breed of retail brands taking up the mantle; adaptive, creative, experiential and ultimately, seamless.