High Streets Must Adapt to Online Shopping

Posted on 28 September, 2012 by MOVEHUT

A recent report has revealed that town centres will need to advertise themselves as convenient hubs for picking up products ordered online if they are to flourish into the next decade.

The report, carried out by research group Experian says retailers will have to manage with more people shopping online. It also added at the same time, shops must cater for an ageing population.

It requests retailers to focus on face-to face service and opportunities for leisure and socialising activities.

Experian envisages that in 10 years’ time there will be three million more people in the UK above the age of 70.

In order to succeed, town centres will need to offer the kind of services valued by older people, such as safe accessible shopping areas and health services.

James Miller from Experian said town centres and high streets had “a careful balancing act to play”.

“They must fulfil the modern need for convenience and value of those with increasingly limited resources and incomes, but not to the detriment of quality and service sought by older and more affluent consumers,” he said.

“At the same time they need to embrace technology to enrich the shopping experience by combining online shopping with the often more convenient option of collecting goods in the town centre.”

Most commercial properties will need to implement “click and collect” services and retailers should embrace social media and mobile commerce to grow their online existence.

The report underlined differences between regions, shown by data from a range of named towns. By 2020, town centres in the East Midlands, the south-east, the east and south-west of England will have the highest growth in their over-50 populations.

Some 51 per cent of town centres in the East Midlands will have a high percentage of older customers; the report predominantly mentions Grantham, Sleaford and Swadlincote.

Although the rise in social media and technology will have an impact all over the UK, the East Midlands, the north-west of England, the east and Yorkshire and the Humber will have the highest proportion of online shoppers by 2018.

The report said “In many cases, these shoppers are from hard-pressed and rural consumer groups that are looking for both the choice and value that online offers.”

It also said three new consumer groups with reduced disposable incomes would materialise, creating parsimonious shoppers and seriously influencing the health of town centres.

These are:

  • the “squashed bottom” – made up of hard-pressed families and singles, predominant in Yorkshire, the north-west and north-east of England
  • struggling couples and elderly singles – particularly in Treorchy, Merthyr Tydfil and Abertillery in Wales, Irvine, Motherwell and Coatbridge in Scotland, and the north-east of England
  • the “squeezed middle” – middle-to-lower income families, found largely in Pontypool, Llanelli and Cwmbran in Wales, the north-west of England and the East Midlands.

The report was prepared in association with the Association of Town Centre Management

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