High Streets Initiative · 26 April 2017

PocketHighStreet founder believes in “democratising” the digital high street

Shlagman
Alex Schlagman recognised the dawning of a new retail age

Imagining what the future digital high street should look like was the starting point for Alex Schlagman, founder at PocketHighStreet.

Together with his business partner in 2014, the entrepreneur set out to make a tool with a far simpler concept than his eventual creation.

His original idea was to build a simple, click and collect, online retail marketplace, but once he’d started, Schlagman soon realised he could go further, and PocketHighStreet – a digital high street – was born.

Bridging the gap between ecommerce and local high street retailers, PocketHighStreet has been designed as the “missing link” for independent business owners, those who haven’t quite yet mastered how to market themselves and their products to customers beyond their local area.

Explaining the thought process behind launching the platform, Schlagman said that it was simply in recognition of the retail industry moving into a new phase. “Everyone recognises it, but so far, not many people have done anything about it,” added the entrepreneur.

“As consumers, we’re increasingly living our lives on our phones. Online shopping is now the norm, which has become a universal problem for retailers, both the big ones and the small ones.

“Local independent retailers often have unique products people want to buy, but they don’t know are there. We all want to shop locally more, and PocketHighStreet is about promoting those unique products where people are more likely to see them – online.”

In Schlagman’s view, the benefits of the digital age have so far failed to filter down to high street level, but with digital high street initiatives like PocketHighStreet, that should soon change.

By further “democratising” the whole digitisation of retail, as Schlagman puts it, local retailers can remain on the front foot and stay relevant in this highly competitive sector.

Exposing local retailers has been the driving force behind PocketHighStreet. However, the fact that some of the country’s larger retailers have been in touch with Schlagman about his progress with the platform has told him that an industry-wide approach, involving all types of retail business, is what’s increasingly needed for a new-look industry to grow that’s fairer for all.

Schlagman went on to say: “We’ve been engaging more and more small firms, many of which the bigger retailers want as their suppliers, so they’ve absolutely been interested in what we’re doing.

“Bigger shops and supermarkets are struggling with footfall, just the same as local high street retailers,” added Schlagman. “Another general concern, common to most retailers, is the increasing costs of keeping bricks and mortar premises.

“It’s a different ballgame entirely to owning an out-of-town warehouse, like most e-retailers – the business rates revaluation is just the latest headache for those on the high street to keep premises up and running.

Schlagman told Business Advice that his duel-track approach of “getting the high street to more people, and more people to the high street” is what could make his platform a vital tool for local retailers in the age of the digital high street.

By signing up to PocketHighStreet, smaller local shop owners get a chance to market their products to a wider audience of potential new customers via the platform’s growing database of media partners, including business directories, voucher sites, online marketplaces, ad networks, shopping apps, newspapers, magazines, bloggers and social influencers.

Once their brand or product has been picked up and featured on the site of a PocketHighStreet partner –  any products these smaller retailers choose to sell online become available to buy via a click and collect service, with a one-hour delivery time.

At present, nearly 500 local independent retailers have signed up to PocketHighStreet, and Schlagman has big plans for the platform’s future.

The reach of its network, and the scope of the platform’s one-hour click and collect delivery service, currently only extends to the outskirts of London, but Schlagman sees PocketHighStreet going UK-wide in future.

“It can really work anywhere because this is a universal problem for all retailers,” said Schlagman. “No matter where in Britain you’re based, if you’re a high street retailer, you’re facing similar challenges.

“There may be nuances between the pressures on a shop owner in a village compared with one in a town or city, but it’s a desire of everyone to increase footfall.”

By sharing its unique data on independent businesses with its partner platforms, PocketHighStreet is designed to benefit retail businesses of all guises – from the online marketplace dependent on the growth and popularity of ecommerce, to the local store, that has products customers want but has no significant online presence.

In what other ways can the UK high street future-proof itself? Have your say by taking our quick two-minute survey.

Catch up with some of the campaign’s earlier insightful features, all about the state of the Britain’s high streets:

This article is part of a wider campaign called the High Streets Initiative, a new section of Business Advice championing independent and small retailers by identifying the issues that put Britain’s high streets under pressure. Visit our High Streets Initiative section to find out more.

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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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