How COVID will change the face of the High Street

COVID has had a huge impact on local businesses and our High Streets have been forever changed as a result. However, while there have been plenty of challenges that have triggered real cause for concern over whether the British High Street will survive this period there may also be opportunity, especially now the restrictions that caused so many of the problems are starting to open up again.

The impact on British High Streets

Loss of trade has been a big problem for the High Street since the start of the pandemic. Even now as some restrictions are being lifted footfall remains low. However, while this presents immediate issues for some retailers others are looking to the change they have felt coming for some time and seeing opportunities. An adjustment in the approach that we currently take to the High Street could make all the difference.

• A mixed use approach. Becoming digital savvy is now essential for High Street stores looking to be more competitive as shoppers start to return once again. It’s key to have a presence online, potentially including social media, to reach customers and be able to advertise events.
• Bringing together retail with other businesses. Combining entertainment, such as dining and the cinema, with retail stores can have a combined positive knock on effect for all businesses as they share in referred trade from one another. Mixing up the High Street so that it is not just about shopping could potentially benefit everyone.
• Making space for pop ups. Many High Streets today have a lot of empty spaces and these present opportunities for businesses without the resources to rent annually or which are looking to test a concept or idea. Pop ups, drop ins and temporary events help to bring life to the High Street and also give new businesses a chance to get a foot in the door of a local market.
• A new wave of independent stores? One of the most visible consequences of the impact of COVID-19 has perhaps been big retailers closing down stores on local high streets. This has left plenty of space that could potentially be filled by independent stores. There are many benefits to this, including the fact that independent retailers are often a part of the local community, frequently innovative and money spent in these stores is more likely to go back into the immediate area.

What can High Street retailers do to survive right now?

While the long term may hold potential opportunities for the High Street there are also plenty of challenges and the key question may be about immediate survival. Experts recommend that retailers in this position take steps to clearly show shoppers the measures that have been taken to keep them safe and to embrace digital communication and contact free payment methods. Marketing that is upbeat but realistic may also help in getting customers back into stores.

The future of the High Street is currently uncertain but while change may come this doesn’t have to be negative.

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