A new coalition is launching at Westminster this week with the aim of taking 200 UK high streets online.
MyHigh.St has teamed up with marketplace website Play.com , the British Independent Retailers Association (bira), Action for Market Towns and the Association of Town and City Management to form the target200 coalition.
The coalition, which has its formal launch at Westminster on Thursday, is launching an ecommerce network built on the foundations of the MyHigh.St project in order to give independent high street retailers across the UK an online shop window.
MyHigh.St launched last year to give independent high street retailers a way to move online while also offering services such as click and collect that encourage shoppers to visit the high street. So far more than 200 retailers from communities including Bristol, Bath, Cupar and Cromer have joined the site.
“The high street is facing its toughest ever battle,” said MyHigh.St co-founder Loaye Agabani, who also owns a toyshop in Wells, Somerset. This year has seen our town centre chains shut more than 30 shops per month as the pressure from online competitors, out-of-town shopping centres and the economic climate took its toll. Independent retailers are currently holding their ground with their focus on service and product differentiation but we worry this is not sustainable as competition grows – we need to take these attributes and help this community thrive, not just survive.”
At its launch, the coalition will publish a report, A Nation of Shopkeepers, suggesting that 32% do not believe that their high street has a future – but that four in 10 people are scared of losing their High Street, a figure rising to 49% among women.
ICM questioned 2,000 people to find that 56% do not think there is enough choice on the high street, 44% think chain store products lack originality, and 30% said they were more likely to shop in small independent stores in the wake of stories about large businesses avoiding paying corporation tax, while two-thirds want a high street that mixes independent and chain stores.
Alan Hawkins, chief executive of bira, said: “Traditional independent shops are digging deep to hold their position with a marginal growth in numbers in the first half of this year – but we fear this is not sustainable in light of the growing challenges they face. Having a showcase to celebrate our towns as digital and real-life shopping destinations, empowering retailers to embrace ecommerce and secure their share of this growing economy, explains why 200 retailers have already signed up. This service is good for shoppers, good for retailers and good for communities.”
Shingo Murakami, managing director of Play.com, which is owned by global marketplace Rakuten, added: “We have built a global business by harnessing the power of the internet to help smaller businesses compete and grow; whilst protecting their individuality and their brands. With 40,000 online retailers in Japan alone we know that this approach delivers for retailers and consumers alike. We are committed as part of our growth in the UK to providing an alternative to the traditional product driven approach of the established ecommerce players and to bringing MyHigh’s independent retailers to our 16 million UK customers.”