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‘Once-in-a-generation’ consumer change fuels high street revival: report

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Convenience culture and the rise of online shopping are driving a once-in-a-generation shift in British shopping habits that is helping to revive the high street, according to a new report.

British High Streets: from crisis to recovery?, by Neil Wrigley and Dionysia Lambiri of the University of Southampton suggests that central shopping streets are changing in nature as they recover from the economic downturn, complementing rather than competing with digital shopping through the rise of services such as click and collect. “Shifts in consumer behaviour,” says the report, “continue to drive the return of major food retailers to town centres and high streets.”

Convenience culture, it says, is part of a “once-in-a-generation reevaluation of consumption practices and cultures.” Today, it “occupies a strategic position in ensuring the future vitality and viability of these vital commercial and community spaces.”

Among those shifts in consumer behaviour is the rise of the leisure services such as the coffee shop. Consumers, suggests the report, value the presence of coffee shops and make shopping decisions according to which streets have them, boosting local high street economies by between 2% and 4% a year by increasing footfall as well as dwell time.

And while online shopping has increased in recent years, its growth has started to slow. Retailers should now, suggests the report, focus on people rather than the devices they use. “It is about using technology to return to the early days of retail – where understanding the consumer and offering personalised service is key.”

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