The latest analysis from consumer watchdog Which? has revealed that independents and services have replaced retail giants on UK high streets.
Services industries such as cafés, tattoo parlours – and of course fancy dress hire or balloon decor services – have thrived while many major retailers continue to struggle.
The consumer champion analysed almost 1.5 million Ordnance Survey (OS) business records to compare Britain’s retail and services landscape from 2014 to 2019 – and found that personal services, markets and specialists that focus on ‘experiences’ are increasingly replacing retailers hit directly by the rise of online shopping.
Despite ongoing concerns regarding the ‘death of the high street’, the research found that businesses offering services or experiences that cannot be replicated online have prospered in the face of the booming digital economy.
These traders can also function as effective drivers of footfall to other businesses, with many traditional retailers now pivoting towards offering these kinds of services in-store.
The analysis suggests that in order to thrive in the face of the growing digital economy, UK high streets need to become wise to the unique role they can play in consumers’ lives, offering services that cannot be replicated online to act as an anchor for bringing people into town centres.
“While it’s concerning to have seen so many well-loved brands disappear from UK high streets in recent years, our research suggests the future of our town centres isn’t necessarily as bleak as the reports of store closures would have you believe,” said Harry Rose, editor of Which? magazine.
“As shoppers needs and habits evolve, it’s vital that businesses keep up with these changing trends and consider how they can grow with them, in order to continue thriving on the high street.”