It’s no secret that our high streets have suffered during the past 12 months of the pandemic. Three lengthy periods of lockdown in England, UK have seen many high street stores disappear.
Why? Well the customer has turned to online shopping. And according to Internetretailer.net, 42% of consumers vow to continue shopping online after the non essential stores reopen.
This blog is not a debate on the fairness of which stores were able to stay open and which were not. More, a look at our shopping habits and our feelings towards the future of our high streets.
Twelve months ago, as we were plunged into the first lockdown, retailers were forced to take their offerings online if they wanted to stand a chance of survival.
How did we as consumers respond?
Initially, there seemed to be a rush to online shopping with the big players and courier companies struggled to cope with demand. Customer Service suffered under the new Covid compliant working rules and increased demand.
I’m lucky where I live because we have some fabulous independent retailers who found ways to ensure their amazing level of customer service did not dip while they figured out a new way of working.
One in particular to mention is Zero in Leamington Spa. From a small store in the town where we would go to refill our containers with everything from peanut butter to laundry liquid, they quickly adapted to not only provide an online store with delivery and click & collect options. They also adapted the physical store to provide an efficient Covid compliant counter service to those not shopping online.
Just over the border in Leicestershire, another incredible example of an independent retailer reacting to the climate is Black Diamond Boutique in Burbage. Pretty much overnight, Samantha, owner of Black Diamond, built her business an online shop. Since then she has embraced online offerings, click & collect, free delivery, huge social media engagement with her customers and overall, top notch customer service.
Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, says that every £1 we spend, is a vote for how we want to live. And as time has gone on, my perception is that we have become more concerned about our high streets and we have turned to our independent retailers to help keep them alive.
Warwick Books, an independent bookstore in the heart of Warwick, stepped up to the mark with email ordering and an easy click & collect offering. For those not wanting to utilise the big boys such as Amazon, this was a welcome service.
Customers won’t forget these independent retailers who have fought tooth and nail to survive in these unprecedented times.
A trip to town, to the shops, will become ‘an occasion’ for many once lockdown is lifted. Maybe, having been forced to ‘slow down’ the pace of life, we will find more time to use our local independents rather than the big one-stop out of town retailers.
With clothes particularly, we will be able to touch and feel fabrics again – a key part of our buying process.
Of course, we mustn’t forget those independent online businesses who have thrived while providing us with essential goods and much needed treats. These have been vital to our economy and our well being.
Personally, I would love to see a sense of community on our high streets where we find the time to visit the green grocer, the butcher, gift shop, clothing stores etc. Where a trip to town really is an occasion to be enjoyed with a stop off at an independent coffee shop or restaurant.
If we want our local high street, we MUST use it.