Are physical stores relevant in a digital world

Recent reports indicate that the number of empty shops on the UK high street is falling at its fastest rate in eight years. This is great news for retailers and consumers alike, and a telling indicator that the UK retail industry may finally be bouncing back from the repercussions of the Global Financial Crisis.

The latest figures from property agent Colliers International show that the vacancy rate on the UK high street has fallen from 15.1% to 13% in the last six months alone. This has been driven by a more stable, growing economy, a drop in the number of well-known retailers going into administration and an increase in retailer confidence.

What this news also highlights is that in an increasingly digitally-enabled world, the bricks and mortar store is still important – even for business with a strong online presence. The popularity of Apple stores, for example, is testament to the fact that the shop front is as important as ever, giving shoppers the opportunity to see and feel the physical product and directly interact with staff in a way that can’t be done online.

Retailers clearly agree that the physical store is far from redundant – our 2013 Pan European Retail Survey highlighted that 65% of retailers believe the importance of physical stores is actually increasing significantly within Europe. So although retailers are operating in a highly digital, mobile-driven market, high street stores still remain at the heart of the shopping experience.

To achieve profitable growth, then, the high street must remain a key channel. Every customer is different, and by providing both online and offline retail experiences, companies enable their buyers to shop in a way that works for them.

The best way to achieve this is to ensure a smooth, integrated customer journey – one that encompasses all channels and puts the customer first by allowing them to purchase any available product anywhere, at any time.

David Lowrence

Posted by St. Marlowe

Semi-retired IT Consultant in the retail sector. Currently Chair of the Saints Supporters' Club, and purveyor of Fine Olde Websites to the County. Come On You Saints

Leave a Reply