Spending time at the London womenswear trade shows this week highlighted that the high street is far from dead. Both Pure London and Scoop were busy and vibrant, and I spotted many an order being placed.
However, the high street is changing, and independent retailers must ensure they are part of the evolution. At a panel I hosted at Pure, I was joined by Samantha Dover, retail analyst at Mintel, Daniel Whytock, co-founder of Down Your High Street and Ian Retallick, founder of consultancy Specialist Retailers.
We discussed how initiatives such as experiential retail can drive footfall into stores – and this is something that independent retailers excel at. In its most basic form it is great, personalised customer service, which has always been at the heart of many independents’ propositions.
Indie retailers are also great at engaging their local community: this is critical for brands who want to be here in the future, when the high street will involve a mix of leisure, education and entertainment. Plus, the rise of pop-ups has brought a sense of newness and an opportunity for brands and retailers to trial a new market.
But although the independent sector has much to shout about, it needs more government support. In last autumn’s Budget, it was announced that from April 2019 the rates bill will be cut by one-third for businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000, but many feel that this initiative does not go far enough to reinvigorate the high street.
Plus, in December, The Future High Streets Fund launched, giving local authorities funds to support high street regeneration. Although it is not yet clear where this money will go, it is crucial that retailers engage with councils to ensure they are among the beneficiaries.
Changes are being made and support initiatives launched, but the pace must quicken to keep up with today’s competitive, multichannel landscape.
But there are those that are doing just that, and this week we focus on what makes the independent sector great as we launch the 2019 Drapers Independents awards. With a range of categories from Best Visual Merchandising and Store Design to Best Marketing Campaign and Best Customer Experience, the awards highlight the most influential brands and highly respected independent retailers that are playing a huge part in keeping the high street alive. Enter now at https://independentawards.drapersonline.com/