The last two decades have seen the gradual falling of the high street with several low end to high end brands completely disappeared from the streets of Britain. United Kingdom is a nation of small businesses and majority of our high streets consists of small businesses of independent shops and several home grown brands that started small and have grown to large empires like the Marks & Spencer, John Lewis Partnership, House of Fraser and many others.
This shift began a decade ago but retailing got tougher after the 2008 global financial meltdown. Sadly for the high street shops, online shopping went off the roof and the boom began with majority of online shops like eBay, Amazon, Google to mention a few broke sales barriers. It became clear that getting your products online gained your business extra revenues with little outgoings besides effective advertising.
It seemed the smart option was to ditch the high streets and shop online. It was a marriage made in paradise for the shops and the shoppers as everybody wins.
So rather than looking for endless parking spaces on the high street, risking parking tickets from the predator parking attendants prowling the street corners, you can make put up your feet, get a cuppa and shop until you drop!
The offers online became endless and the price drops were phenomenal and many shopping sites threw in free delivery for good measure. Not only could you shop from the comfort of your own home at your convenience but also collect by hand from several other nearby outlets on the ‘Click and Collect’.
Online shopping became such a boom and so competitive that the price drops were heavy in some outlets just to promote sales.
According to the ONS internet sales have become increasingly popular since 2010 when compared against the retail sector as a whole, (See fig below).
IMRG Capgemini e-Retail sales index estimates that 27% of retail sales in the UK is done online. This is set to increase by another 11% this year to an estimated £126 billion. This is particularly driven by online sales made on mobile devices.
It is apparently clear from the ONS chart below that online sales are becoming so popular compared against the retail sector over the past recent years.
Sadly the boom in the online retail sales in the United Kingdom has brought a bust on our high streets. Over the years, running costs of retail stores have spiralled out of control due to rising shop leases, expensive business rates and rising staff wages.
Unfortunately for Britain, many of the iconic high street brands have either filed for bankruptcy or closed down completely.
High Street Retail Brands Gone
1. BHS – 164 stores and 11,000 staff
2. Austin Reed, the tailoring brand with 155 stores and almost 1,000 staff
3. Debenhams Retail (Ireland) Ltd – There are 11 stores in Ireland with 2,265 employees
4. Blue Inc. – 60-65 stores and 500 jobs
5. La Senza – 55 stores and 750 employees.
6. City Link – 2,000 employees and 1,000 self-employed couriers
7. Albemarle & Bond – 188 shops and 1,000 employees
8. Phones 4U, Phones 4U had 550 stores (plus concessions) and 5,600 employees
9. Woolworths – 807 stores almost 30,000 employees
10. Barratts – Shoe store chain with 200 stores and 400 concessions
High Street Shopping Revival
The present state of our high streets especially in the inner cities is diabolical with so many empty retail premises and more expected to close down due to the overall downturn in retail spending in the United Kingdom. Perhaps this will be a good time for the present government to intervene before this gets ugly and out of control.
The ongoing discounts in several high street chains is unprecedented and shows the true level of high street retail spending is falling. Without those attractive discounts and endless offers, these shops will be empty.
As scary as it sounds we may just wake up one day and find that most of high shops left will only be the handful of the extremely rich multi-global store retail chains like H&M leaving the high streets void of real variety, choices and competition.