High Streets Initiative · 10 April 2017

Introducing the Business Advice High Streets Initiative

HSI
High Streets Initiative: The champion of local independent business owners

As the mouthpiece for sole traders and micro businesses around the UK, our High Streets Initiative is a natural extension of our desire to promote small enterprise. 

They remain a cornerstone of the country’s local communities, yet high streets in towns and cities up and down the UK are struggling to keep pace with the ever-changing face of British retail.

Last year, the UK experienced five independent retail business closures every day on average, as local shop owners suffered from declining sales figures and depreciating footfall. In contrast, the country also endured the lowest level of local retail business openings in five years, according to a report by consultancy PwC.

Recognising the current plight of small retailers, Business Advice’s all-new High Streets Initiative will champion local independent business owners by identifying those issues which prevent UK high streets from flourishing – ranging from local parking restrictions to the national business rates system.

High Streets Initiative will empower business owners, addressing common concerns via our regularly-updated hub. By continuing to publish vital news, features, case studies and interviews, we’ll act as the voice for local independent retailers who feel as though their views aren’t being heard.

We’ll also pay close attention to the area of ecommerce – a retail trend affecting the modern sales environment arguably more than any other.

Industry statistics continue to show swathes of small UK shop owners failing to develop an online offering whilst struggling to keep their bricks and mortar stores afloat and competitive on the high street.

Striking the so-called “bricks and clicks” balance has become a key worry for many independent retail owners. A January 2017 survey from Capgemini revealed the in-store frustrations of shoppers when they can’t access many of the features common to online retail.

Asking the views of some 6,000 retail consumers, 71 per cent of the survey’s respondents said they found it difficult locating items in a bricks and mortar store, while 68 per cent expressed annoyance at having to spend time queuing.

When it comes to in-store promotions, 65 per cent of shoppers last year claimed that they weren’t as relevant as those offered to them whilst browsing online, and the same proportion stated they simply weren’t able to find what was being sought in bricks and mortar stores, as opposed to online.

It’s increasingly clear that smaller business owners who fail to invest time and money developing a digital presence will find competing with larger retailers more and more difficult. Nonetheless, there’s evidence to suggest that the so-called “death of the high street” – which some retail commentators consider to be imminent – is perfectly avoidable, and far from inevitable.

The demand for in-store experiences, and a desire to physically see and touch products before buying them, continues unabated.

According to one further study, published last year by Barclays, 63 per cent of British consumers prefer seeing products in real life before buying them.

Business Advice’s High Streets Initiative will focus on the opportunities local independent business owners continue to face amid current uncertainties.

The adaptability of smaller retailers to the changing retail landscape will be important, but the high street remains an essential part of the consumer experience, and there’s the chance to achieve even greater levels of success for innovative small retail business owners.

The initiative will be brought to life by our Bricks and Clicks video feature series, which will showcase some of the most innovative small companies successfully building a physical and digital presence. These trailblazers will be sharing their expertise and learnings with you to provide guidance on the dos, and do nots, of this retail approach.

If you are a company that fits this brief, or know of one that does, we’d encourage you to get in contact with us via editors@businessadvice.co.uk. From shoe shops to delicatessens, Bricks and Clicks will provide exemplars of companies evolving to fit the needs of increasingly demanding 21st century customers.

In the meantime, we’ve produced a handy infographic below to illustrate the challenges being faced by small and independent retailers – as well as crystallising what the Business Advice High Streets Initiative is all about.

We’d also encourage you to share your thoughts on the plight of the British high street in our quick two-minute survey. We’ll be revealing the results of it periodically.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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