Business development · 20 March 2020

How can High Street business adapt to these times?

Corona-virus is not just affecting the nation’s health, but unfortunately our pockets too.  In a matter of days, we have seen have already struggling high-street stores buckle under the unprecedented tidal wave of this pandemic.

British fashion house Laura Ashely, who has 150 stores across the UK has been the first brand to be hit hardest by this. As talks to salvage the depleting brand have been ruled out due to the outbreak, placing 2,7oo jobs at risk.

And it’s not just run-of-the-mill clothing brand who are feeling the burn. Just yesterday Cineworld has already begun laying off staff, due to staff with immediate effect after closing all its cinemas. 

So what can highstreet businesses do adapt to try and salvage their livelihood amidst this economic turmoil?  Speaking to Dr Gordon Fletcher, retail expert from the University of Salford Business School he shares some expert insight on what industry owners can expect in the coming weeks.

Not just clothing stores

The high street has taken a hammering this week and is likely to look very different by the end of the summer, but if companies adapt there could be hope.  Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and William Hill and other betting companies, who are now taking a double hit.

With the cancellation of large sporting events, there are fewer opportunities for betting. However, even if there are opportunities to bet (and there are) the betting shops themselves are not seeing their normal foot traffic. While there are online offerings for each of the companies, this change will affect jobs and ultimately the look and feel of many high streets across the UK.

More indirectly a national second-hand car dealership and three fashion retailers have also flagged up the risk brought by the coronavirus and the necessary response. Evans Halshaw, Next, Burberry and Joules have all struggled in a difficult high street climate and a highly competitive eCommerce world.

Trading struggles

The lack of high street footfall is now making their trading struggles more acute and brought this to bear more rapidly. Statements from the fashion companies suggest there will be an acceleration of movement to online retail over the next few months. It is inevitable that the high street will look very different by the end of Summer – and initially, at least it will not be a good look.

Yet in among this negative outlet, there are businesses already responding in new ways to the crisis to ensure their continuity. Canlis, an upmarket restaurant in Seattle, has responded to enforce closure by moving away from dine-in options to drive-through, popup and home delivery models more familiar in the low-end takeaway market.

Be prepared for change

The underlying message from all of these businesses is that a prolonged period of social distancing is going to bring changes – some permanent – in the ways that we do all forms of commercial and social activities.

Inevitably, this will involve more eCommerce, more online but as the fog of the medical crisis clears and the exhaust fumes from commuters reappears. Innovative thinking will also bring new opportunities and ideas to the high street and elsewhere.

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Laura is the Junior Reporter at Real Business and Business Advice. She's the first point of call for any PR, business owner or industry insider looking to tell a story of entrepreneurial inspiration, retell some key advice, or a ground-breaking news story. She is the core ambassador for the brand(s) and can be found attending high profile events and meeting disruptive business owners across London – and beyond.