What will the future high street look like?

New research reveals what the future high street could look like based on what modern shoppers want to see.

It’s true: the high street really is in decline.

Ipsos reports that footfall was down by 4.2 per cent from 2017 (that’s around 3 million fewer shoppers) and around 1,300 store closures left over 7 million square foot of empty retail space.

A lot of large retailers focused on maximising profits by axing branches, leaving many high street units unused.

UK Retail Footfall

The survey also found that 75 per cent of respondents claimed to be saddened by the decline of UK high streets.

Worryingly, a quarter say that they’re indifferent to the decline, which is likely due to apathy with decades of outdated planning.

Almost 40 per cent said they do most or all of their shopping online. Meanwhile, 28 per cent prefer to do their shopping in-store and 34 per cent claim that it’s around 50/50.

This is backed up by recent ONS data which shows that £1 in every fiver is now being spent online by UK shoppers.

A striking 20 per cent felt that their visits to the high street were months apart. Mostly because they aren’t currently finding value in what’s on offer.

For us here at SmallBusiness.co.uk, it’s promising to hear that over half of those surveyed (56 per cent) prefer to spend their money with independent local retailers rather than chains. Independent retailers are more likely to give a tailored service which is favoured by customers.

Which type shops are successful?

The Centre of Retail Research reveals that these are the types of business that prospered and withered in 2018.

On the left-hand side you’ll see more modern, experience-driven businesses whereas those on the right-hand side are more traditional.

Thriving businesses in 2018

More stores openedMore stores closing
Convenience storesConfectionery / news
Coffee shopsFashion and clothing
Beauty salonsMusic / games / DVDs
Nail salonsShoe shops
Restaurants and barsCard and gift shops
BarbersBetting shops
Vape shopsAntique shops
Healing / treatmentsBookshops
TakeawaysFlooring shops
Tattoo parloursHousehold goods
CafesFurniture and textiles

Property developer, Harper Dennis Hobbs, pinned down the retail locations suffering the most. The following is based on vacancy rates and how available stores meet local needs.

  • Shields Road, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
  • Harrow Road, Paddington, London
  • Stretford, Greater Manchester
  • Tonypandy, Wales
  • Walton Road, Liverpool
  • Burnt Oak, North London
  • Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
  • Kirkby, Merseyside
  • Selly Oak, Birmingham
  • Shettleston Road, Glasgow

What the high street of the future should have

Commercial Finance experts, ABC Finance, have the following suggestions.

This is what the future high street looks like

More food and drink choices

The ‘night-time economy’ is essential – high streets should have a diverse range of restaurants, food markets and upmarket bars to give people a place to relax in the evening.

Experience-focused retailers

Modern customers like to focus on experiences rather than things. Think immersive layouts, loyalty schemes and personalised service.

Concept stores

Online-only stores can get their products in-store – this is known as ‘showrooming’. It’s becoming more common to have displays where people can see and touch the products before they buy them.

Beacon technology

With beacon technology, you can walk past shops and restaurants and get personalised offers which might encourage you to go in-store.

Pop-up social spaces

No different from your standard pop-up – just areas where sellers can trade from a temporary unit.

More green spaces

It’s simple: more green space leads to a more relaxing customer experience.

More activities

As mentioned, customers are more interested in ‘experiences’ than ‘things’. Escape rooms and climbing centres are popular.

Beauty and wellbeing

This leans more towards wellbeing and spa treatments than hair and nail salons.

Flexible workspaces

High streets should accommodate the cultural shift towards flexible working by providing spaces which are particularly useful to smaller companies and solo workers.

Multipurpose structures

Multipurpose structures are a combination of all of the above. These are hubs where people can live, work and socialise by combining shopping, entertainment and fitness.

Could it work?

When asked about these measures, a third of survey respondents say they would support seeing these on the high street.

What would make you visit your local high street more frequently?

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.