Despite Easter delivering a small kick to the high street, the general prognosis for shops as we know them doesn’t look good. The latest report – from PwC on behalf of The Local Data Company – shows that High Street shops are closing at an increasing rate and are being replaced with clubs, food shops and vaping stores.
The report found that while 4,534 stores opened in 2016 there were 5,430 closures – a net loss of 896.It marked a steep rise on the net reduction of just under 500 in the previous 12 months, the report said, as fashion stores and banks focused on guiding customers towards their online operations instead of branches.
As ever, the answer lies in mobile. According to James Frost, CMO at Worldpay UK: “There are a number of things that small businesses which rely on in-store sales can do to flourish in these trying and competitive times. It is important to look at the connection that consumers have with the high street though. Yes, technology has transformed their expectations, but this translates to opportunities for small businesses. Today’s digitally driven shoppers want to be able to research their purchases online, seek advice from staff in-store, pay in any way that they choose, and return items at the click of a button. The most successful retailers will be those capable of anticipating consumer demands, engaging with them in ways which are meaningful, and ultimately make their lives easier by removing the hassle from making a purchase.”
According to Frost, in-store mobile point of sale devices are increasingly popular among boutique owners because they help cut queues by allowing sales staff to take payments directly on the shop floor from a tablet device. These internet-enabled devices are also put your full retail inventory in the palm of your hand, ensuring you never miss out on a sale, even if an item happens to be out of stock in-store.
“Services like click and collect, and the ability for consumers to check online whether items are in-stock before heading to a store, are also increasingly popular, and by no means beyond the reach of small and independent retailers,” he says.