How the high street is fighting back against online retailers
Most people can remember a time before Black Friday hit these shores. A time before, throughout the month of November, we’re all hit with barrage of emails announcing price cuts on just about everything. But is the retail experience all about price? And should it be? Local businesses, council leaders and communities think not. There’s recognition that small local businesses can fight back against the Amazons of this world by offering something online retailers can’t provide. And, holistically, it’s all about the customer experience. If you’re thinking about starting or buying a small business, the key to your success will be you, your staff, your fellow local business owners and the positive experience you can build for your customers.
The shopping experience doesn’t just feature the basic transaction for goods. It’s typically a day out, or at least a few hours away from home, and often with friends or family. And that will entail eating, drinking, browsing and buying. It’s why shopping centres have appeal – they can provide visitors with everything they need under one roof. A high street might not be able to offer everything under one roof, of course, but they can provide everything a customer needs when out shopping for the day. What’s more, local independent businesses can differentiate themselves from online retailers and big brands by being personal, being attentive and being, well, different. In fact, plenty of small businesses are bucking the trend by doing what the big brand retailers can’t. And that’s why it could be a great time to buy an independent business.
When small local businesses come together in a community, and offer an incentive for customers to stick around, they’re more likely to spend – and likely to spend more. And it’s that sort of collective thinking that impressed the judges at this year’s Great British High Street Awards. Crickhowell, which nestles just beside the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, took the top prize, beating 37 other local town centres to win this year’s trophy. Crickhowell was commended for a campaign that brought 100 local shops and firms together, promoting each other and helping to drive footfall to the high street. Once more, this demonstrates the power that local people – and local businesses – can apply when they work together. The fight can definitely be taken to online retailers when communities and people come together.
There’s plenty of hope for the high street still. And the government recognises the need to fight back against online retailers. The chancellor gave a boost to small businesses in his Autumn budget, easing pressure with a reduction in business rates that will offer further relief for 90% of shops. He also pledged £650m into the Future High Street Fund which will help local councils invest in their high streets. Several towns in the UK are already working hard to breathe new life into the high street, and not just those 38 finalists in the Great British High Street Awards. So, if you’re in business already, or about to buy your first business, take comfort in the fact that the high street is fighting back. Black Friday might be here to stay, but so, it would seem, is the high street.