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Editor's Comment: Don't write off the high street just yet

The evolution of the high street is by no means a new topic, but it is one retailers are grappling with as trading gets tougher and the pace of change increases.

Retailers’ scaling back of operations includes restructuring teams, streamlining store portfolios, and integrating multichannel technologies to future-proof their businesses. Most recently, we have seen retailers such as New Look seeking deals with landlords to close shops and reduce rents. 

This week, retail veteran Bill Grimsey has launched a second high street review to investigate some of the challenges facing the high street.

A range of cost increases have hit retailers and they are asking landlords to be more realistic about rents, as well as calling for support from the government in the form of a ”business rates break”. 

Grimsey’s review will look at successful regeneration projects and out-of-town models, and consider how to prepare the high street for the future. In an interview with BBC Radio 4, he said he will seek to adjust town centres to populate them in a number of ways. He highlighted that while local authorities know the ”what” they need to address, they don’t know the “how”, particularly as they face budget cuts.

One area that does seem to be gaining some success is super-malls. In our feature this week, we highlight how these mega-malls are taking customer experience to the next level to attract continued footfall. As retailers look at their store portfolios, many are closing smaller out-of-town stores and opening larger, experiential flagships within these centres.

We also investigate how, as the landscape of the high street continues to change, so do it owners. Over the last few years, we have seen UK multiple retailers bought up by large conglomerates as international investors such as The Foschini Group and Shandong Ruyi take control of the UK high street. While this cash injection is required to survive, UK fashion retail is a unique industry that needs an imaginative approach – retail leaders must ensure they retain the integrity of the high street and its inimitable shopper appeal.

There is no doubt that the UK high street is under strain, and streamlining operations and store portfolios is required. But the high street is not dead, and adopting an attitude of defeat would be a mistake. It is evolving as part of this new fast-paced multichannel world and the retailers that keep up, innovate, get the product right and offer customers a range of shopping platforms will survive. Stores give customers an opportunity to see the product, be part of the brand and socialise within that environment.

Give customers a true brand experience – online and offline – and they will keep coming back.






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