Two's a Queue

Retail, eCommerce, usability, customer experience, service, technology...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The High Street dead? It's suicidal

Twitter followers will know that this Retail Week article caused more than a few mini-rants last week when I read it over my count-on-us 300 calorie lunch.

Firstly the comments (I'll let you make up your own mind about what annoyed me there) and secondly the sentiment of Phil Wrigley's article and the nods of assent from those agreeing with him just made my little retail heart sink.

Now before you get all commenty on me - without a doubt there are pressures on our high streets - from bad planning to high rents to rates, parking, bad public transport and goodness knows what - but what I really disagree with is this concept that ecommerce is killing the high street. Trust me the high street is doing the death throes thing all by itself....

For a while now anecdotal evidence has suggested to me that high street stores aren't having their sales snatched away from them by the big bad online burglar - they're standing outside with a massive golf sale sign giving them away.

As mentioned in this internet retailing article last week the high street shouldn't just curl up and die - it needs to change to survive. (And not into 'showrooms for Amazon' btw - personally I think the idea of our high street's being full of 'showrooms' for online purchases is even more hideous. That's a whole other blog post.)

Newsflash - people still like going into stores! and Newsflash - multichannel isn't an alternative to the high street - it needs the high street to survive. There is a whole load about multichannel shopping that customers like:

 -Touching the item
 -Trying on clothes
 - Reserving something and having it be there when they arrive
 -Looking at a product in real life
 -Getting a fancy paper bag
 -Being able to browse in different stores without prior thought
 -Grabbing a coffee and wandering around at their own pace
 -Tidy, pleasant and modern interiors
 -Knowledgeable staff
 -Easy refunds
 -Clear signage and size cubes (Topshop - seriously SIZE CUBES)
 -Nice, quality, engaging products
 -Competitive pricing
 - EASILY picking up an online order, making an online order to have delivered, returning online orders

- The theatre of going into a store, buying something, having it wrapped and actually taking it home right then and there

What they don't like is the following:

  -Not being able to get the size they want (Topshop - last time I looked you did up to a size 16 at least-feel free to stock anything in any store rather than just size 6's)
 -Not being able to find what they want
 -Bad service
 -Not knowing what the price is (John Lewis - I love you but you do this all the time)
 -Dirty and untidy stores
 -Ditto old fashioned fixtures
 -Overstocked rails
 - Bad lighting (Unless you're Abercrombie and Fitch just don't)
 - Empty rails (Disney Store on Saturday - no kermits really??)
 - Dust bunnies under rails
 - Being looked at like they're some kind of mud monster because they're not the right age/size/have interrupted a conversation (Oasis in Richmond - this is why you're shut)
 - Messy rails (H and M after 10am? anyone?)
- Too much floor equipment (Topshop again)
 - Hideous night-club esque music (River Island - yes I'm looking at you)
 - Not being able to find anyone to ask a question of
 - Fitting rooms with more rules than a prison
 - Staff who are so underpaid and miserable that they can only glare from their till-point in a mid-distance stare waiting for the day to end

Honestly I could go on forever; you can talk about rents, parking and footfall  -  whatever you want but if you can honestly say you do all of the things in the first list and none of the ones in the second and yet you are still dying on your feet then I'll let you agree with PW. Otherwise, suck it up.

All of these are things we've traditionally had to deal with as retailers - just because there is now an alternative route that customers are taking to avoid this means we should all throw our toys out of the pram and give up? We're expecting someone to come and rescue us from this deadly disease? Are we retailers or mice?


Pure Sauce said...

completely agree -Years ago retailing was like showtime and retail shops were emporiums - window displays were show stopping and the internal displays made people stop linger and spend - they were destinations not somewhere to run in and out of - if we don't revert to this you don't give people incentives to get of their sofa and travel into town and shop

Anonymous said...

Isn't that so true? Why would you get off your sofa - with all the available entertainment delights you can get without moving from there - and go shopping if what you find is dirty, understocked, badly lit stores run by miserable undertrained and unloved staff? There is a reason Topshop in Oxford Street is always busy - and that's because they provide an experience for their customer - with nail bars, a cupcake counter, huge shoe department you can linger in...they know their market and they work it. For some reason too many retailers seem to have forgotten this and lost their mojo.

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