The reality is harsh but it is a reality: people are no longer flocking to the high streets to purchase items that they need or desire. We have moved on from an age where big retailers and small independent shops are the calling card for consumers. And some huge brands have felt the hit. Already this year, Agent Provocateur, Jaeger and even Jamie's Italian having all gone bankrupt.
We are heading to a point where many high streets are on life support. A real shame, but rather than bemoaning this, it’s important to understand why this is happening. Small businesses need to prepare for this reality and look at exactly why people’s spending patterns have changed. The most obvious thing you’ll think of immediately is...
Everything is online now
Well not everything, but more and more consumers are choosing to make purchases through either huge eCommerce giants like Amazon and ASOS or are buying directly from independent sites who take purchases online. This has only increased through the growth of smart and android phones where customers are looking to make quick payments on the go.
This changing trend has meant that even some of the largest brick and mortar retailers, like M&S and Debenhams, have had to incorporate online into their thinking, in a larger way than perhaps they might have thought.
Less time consuming
In a nutshell, buying online is simply faster and quicker. If you are looking to buy the latest novel from an author like Robert Harris, from your local Waterstones, the chances are that this might be sold out. Now the worker at the counter tells you it won’t be in stock till next week. That’s annoying, but then you go to Amazon and all of a sudden, you see a call to action as clear as blue sky which says get it by tomorrow. What option is more preferable - be honest, it’s the second one. And this is how many people think. They are on the move, they are busy and managing different things. They may not have the time to visit their local high street to get what they need. They will do something they know which will take less time out of their day. And this is a big reason why online is outpacing the high street.
Lack of originality
The decline of the high street is not just due to the convenience that online offers. There are other factors too. Another reason why people are switching to online is because high streets don’t offer enough choice. How often have you gone to a high street and seen very unappealing stores. WHSmiths, Poundland, maybe a Sports Direct - and possibly a Costa or a Starbucks. And it’s a pattern. Many high streets are like this and it means the stores that do sell items which are different and interesting get lost in the sheer ‘sameness’ of the other run of the mill retailers. This is a real shame, but there are some exceptions to this. The Lanes in Brighton are bustling and busy. Why? Because there are a huge array of independent stores offering quirky items. There are so many so it’s difficult to avoid, this is why this district has lasted for so long. But there aren’t enough specific spots like this in the UK which cater for small businesses. This lack of choice has no doubt driven people towards online.
Income decline for millennials
It’s an unfortunate fact of life in the UK that incomes are not in line with the standard of living. The largest generation of today's workforce (Millennials) are often cited as the first generation who are expected to be less well off than their parents. So what does this have to do with the high street? Well for one, it means there is less money to spend. It also means people are more likely to flock to - you guessed it - the internet to look for a much bigger array of deals and offers, not just from Amazon but other sites like Shpock - which allows people to bid on secondhand items and get huge reductions for essential items. This array of discounts and offers of this level simply do not exist on the high street. So it’s totally understandable why younger generations are going online - there are simply far more affordable options via this medium.
This is why it's key for businesses to consider taking their business online. At Payzone, we have a range of online payment solutions to suit a variety of businesses. Find out more and get a free quote.