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EDITORIAL Why the high street isn’t dead – but part of the changing way we shop

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we report as the Centre for Retail Research predicts more than 17,000 shops will close in 2020 – 9% more than in 2019 and part of what the CRR describes as a retail crisis. One of the retailers that will close all three of its UK stores in 2020 is Forever 21, which this week it says it will instead focus online for its international, cross-border sales, while Debenhams is also about to start closing 19 stores as part of its own cutbacks. From here, many may well predict the death of the high street.

But Mountain Warehouse chief executive and founder Mark Neale says not. He says his company’s buoyant Christmas trading figures prove that the ‘doom-mongers’ predicting the death of the high street are wrong. And he’s set to open 50 more stores, both in the UK and around the world, in the year to come. So what’s the secret? For Neale it appears to come down to selling the right, well-made products, in the right places, whether that’s online or in store.

For different retailers are having very different experiences at a time when how, when and where we shop is changing dramatically. That’s also shown in the contrasting Christmas fortunes of Morrisons and Aldi this week, where Morrisons has found sales dipping as consumers become more uncertain – while Aldi says it’s attracted shoppers through lower prices. And while Morrisons is keeping the number of stores it has pretty level, Aldi has plans to expand its store numbers significantly. 

Certainly, some retailers have found they had too many stores at a time where more people want to shop online, but others are finding that there’s plenty of appetite for the goods they sell from shoppers who want to buy online – but also want to come into store and see, touch and feel items they are considering buying. Shoppers who have grown confident buying online and via their mobile devices have likely concluded both that it’s convenient to buy online when they need to, and especially when they are making a repeat or a utility purchase of something that they already know to suit them. But at other times, they want to be able to go into stores and inspect first hand a product that they don’t know, but are considering buying, before they commit to buy.

Indeed, customer experience has become the new brand differentiator, both before and after purchase, argues Brendan Dykes of Genesys in today’s timely guest comment. In today’s 2020 predictions, we look at two perhaps contrasting views of personalisation. And, from our European coverage, we report as Carrefour targets office workers with a lunchtime delivery service. 

Image: AdobeStock

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