Our High Street Future
My passion for retail started at a very early age. My mum was the successful director of a recruitment business whilst I was growing up so prior to going to boarding school I lived with my Nan and Grandad during the week. I had a wonderful little set up in the hallway of their house that was essentially a corner shop made from all sorts we salvaged and found. My Nan would come home with her shopping trolley and before she could unpack it into her cupboards I would display her supermarket purchases on my shelves ready for her to purchase them all over again. There was never any question in my mind of where my future lay...
So here I am all these years later living that early dream. I have made many mistakes in the journey to where I am today but my passion is stronger now more than ever. I realise now that I have a voice in this hectic world, a voice that sometimes needs to be heard. After the hardest year as a small business owner I still feel we are fighting the negative media battle. High streets are dying.... Online is the future.... People will be too scared to return and shops will close...
Whilst there is tiny glimmers of truth in some of these statements I have read and listened to detrimental stories for years and yet, they all seem to be completely contradictory to the truth of what is happening. Instead of supporting the local businesses, the wonderful hardworking individuals, couples and friends that I see every day, our local press continues to publish stories about empty shops, the good old days, vandelism and the rise of the internet.
Prior to the Covid 19 crisis the percentage of retail sales made online was around 20%. That means that 80% of all retail sales were made in bricks and mortar shops. The 20% of online purchases were largely made up of sportswear, fashion and technology. I fully acknowledge the need for a website. I can see the benefits to my business but believe me, we are about to have our day.
We have very sadly lost some our the most iconic shops of youth, Top Shop, Debenhams, Laura Ashley to name but a few. This has resulted in thousands of hard working people losing their jobs. Large empty carbuncles in our town centres give the impression they are failing. How far from the truth this could be. Sterile, unfriendly and outdated retail has suffered and that is in no way a reflection of the teams working each day in these stores, its the failure of the top management to see what the consumer truly wanted. The consumer that wants the anonymous shop, the soulless atmosphere or the empty window display would choose to shop online 9 times out of 10. The person rushing to grab trainers for the weekend in their lunch hour would of course take the far more sensible option of enjoying their sandwich whilst ordering through their phone. I support and applaud these shoppers but there are people among us, hundreds of thousands of people that have had enough of just handing over money without the experience a fabulous shop can give.
To my fellow independents, this is our time. Our time to shine and show people we offer what they have been looking for. Our passion shines through. Our ability to be completely unique. The wonderful, personal service we offer. Retail is not dead it is evolving.
- Alex Parry