I’ve always believed in shopping local to support my community when I can. But sometimes there’s just no competing with online retail shops; and due to financial constraints, I often shop online.
But according to a recent survey by Together Money, three in four Brits are with me in believing it’s important to support shops on their local high street.
But how has the high street changed over the years? To take a closer look at what the UK high street actually looks like in 2019 – and how location affects the number of businesses favouring bricks and mortar over cyber stores – the company analysed a sample of 6,682 businesses across 120 high streets from towns in all 12 regions of England, as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Back to basics
It found that despite the headlines, retail was still seen to retain a strong presence on the UK high street at 30.32%, accounting for nearly one in three businesses with the retailer B&M revealed as the most wanted retailer on the high street. See – I knew I was on to a good thing when I started shopping at B&M. My other favoured ‘high street’ shops (in case I’m still onto a good thing) include TKMaxx, The Range, Home Bargains and Dunelm.
Meanwhile, cafes and other food and drink business made up the next highest proportion, coming in at 9% and 8% respectively. But on the other side of the scale, service companies (such as dry cleaners), make up a much smaller proportion of our high streets at just 0.25%, followed closely by automotive services and recreational establishments like gyms, both of which also came in at less than 1%.
And the research suggests that local independent shops are of high importance to British homeowners – in fact, more than one in three Brits would like to see a return to smaller, local shops in their town. I’m with them on this one.
It’s all about location
In terms of location, Northern Ireland came out as the best place for independent stores, with more than one in two businesses on the high street (52%) being independently owned. And Yorkshire came out as having the least independent high streets, with just over 28% (around one in four) businesses coming out as an independent.
I’d say my local area probably has somewhere in between the two – it’s a good mixture of local shops, but I especially like it when entrepreneurs and sole traders giving it a go to boost the local economy and I’m more than happy to support them where I can.
After speaking with local shops as part of the monthly community magazine that I produce, I’ve discovered that it’s not necessarily a decline in demand for independent businesses that has seen numbers dwindle in recent years, but rather the rising rents that landlords insist on charging.
As a result, independents struggle to compete with the bigger brands and national companies – and there doesn’t seem to be any let-up.
With retail now taking up only 30.32% of the high street and an increase in service industries like restaurants and cafes, you can understand why many independent companies fail in their first five years.
A case in point
When I worked in the travel industry I would attend a number of annual conferences, and if there’s one thing I learned it was that travel agencies needed to change and adapt in order to survive.
Years ago this meant that they had to have an online presence – sell holidays not just in their high street agencies but also online. But you’d be surprised at how many of them didn’t – and still don’t. And it’s the ones that have failed to listen to this great advice that find themselves having to close up shop.
In terms of the independents on the high street, not only do I believe that an online presence is imperative, but now social media plays a massive role in our everyday lives and has now become something of a necessity.
It’s only those that grab the bull by the horns and up their retail game that give themselves the best chance of survival.
What do you think? Are you happy to shop local to support businesses or do you prefer the ease of shopping online?