Innovation needed to safeguard town centre retail

Local authorities and town centre managers are being urged to consider new ways to bring trade to town centres, as figures from the Christmas shopping period and the last year as a whole indicate consumer trends are changing drastically, to the detriment of local high street shops.

Organisers of the Future High Street Summit, which will be held on 25th and 26th March in Nottingham, believe that with the unyielding rise in online sales and the continuing trends in footfall, the UK’s towns need to look at what they can offer to entice shoppers back to the high streets.

This news is particularly pertinent for the watch industry, which constantly faces a battle to stop customers from utilising online discounts instead of purchasing in bricks and mortar stores.

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IMRG reported that online shopping grew a further 14% in 2014, and sales passed the £100 billion landmark for the first time. Christmas alone saw a 13% rise. Although this is great news for online retailers, physical shops are starting to feel the burden – as IMRG noted, £1 in £4 is now spent online and the remaining £3 is likely to involve some sort of digital interaction.

“The BRC found that December saw the slowest growth in sales since 2008,” explains Clare Rayner, founder of the event. “Retail sales like-for-like were 0.4%, although there was a small 1% rise in total sales over December 2013. Although it’s been described as ‘flat but respectable’, it’s still enough to make high streets and retailers sit up and take notice.”

Further reports from Springboard indicate that year-round footfall is continuing to drop, with December 0.7% down on the previous year; the three-month average is now at a 1.3% decline.

Worryingly for local authorities and town centre managers, the same report stated that, unlike high streets and shopping centres, out-of-town has experienced positive footfall growth for every month in 2014.

The decrease becomes even more important when the rise of Click & Collect services are taken into account. Even though people buy online and visit shops to pick up their purchases, footfall is still dipping – indicating that it’s not just online shopping affecting our high streets.

University on 25th and 26th March. For more information on the event and to see an outline agenda with the other featured high street factors, delegates can visit the Future High Street Summit Website.

2015 will be a significant year for the watch industry in combating the issue of weakening high street performance. How brands and retailers alike embrace the internet, rather than reject it, and use it as a complementary tool to high street shops, will go a long way to determining how successful the next 12 months will be for the UK watch market.

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