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High street must court online shoppers to survive

16 June 2015 - 12:17 by Mike Price

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The head of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), has outlined the ways in which towns and cities across the UK need to change, in order to keep the high street alive while catering to consumers’ love of shopping online.

Helen Dickinson said that it was foolish to fight against the trends which are taking more custom away from bricks and mortar outlets in town centres, where in the past month, footfall was down by one per cent. Instead, she recommends that those in charge of managing these areas, as well as the retailers themselves, recognise that modern consumers prefer an omnichannel approach to shopping.

This is evidenced by the fact that click and collect services have been a big success for many retailers, encouraging people to visit out of town retail outlets to pick up products which they have ordered online.

The implication is that people like the option to combine online and in-store experiences rather than sticking solely to one or the other. And because large retail parks tend to have plenty of space for cars and lots of other conveniences, they are taking more custom away from high street outlets.

Footfall at out of town retail parks was up by 2 per cent in the past quarter, meaning that there is a tangible benefit to making the most of click and collect for retailers. Once people are out of the house and heading to collect an online order, there is every chance that they will make other purchases while they are visiting the shops.

Quite how this can be translated in a healthier high street trade in the UK remains to be seen, although Dickinson believes addressing issues like the cost of parking will be a good start.