It has always been well-perceived that society can be socially cohesive in times of crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly become a formidable common enemy that has affected us all in some way, shape or form.
As a result of the UK lockdown measures, we have been kept away from our High Streets and retailers for more than three months. In that time, we have all seen the media coverage of the severe impact that trading restrictions have had on businesses and the economy, whilst online retail continues to thrive. With current restrictions continuing to be eased, bringing a return of some degree of normality, it is likely there will be a pent-up desire to shop and spend in the coming months. This, combined with a heightened sense of togetherness, could result in a renewed appreciation of our local High Streets.
According to research by GlobalData, over 30% of consumers in the UK intend to shop more locally post-lockdown. An IBM study showed a similar intention in the US. Furthermore, it is being reported that consumers are likely to feel more of an allegiance to ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers in the future, and even more so to the local independents.
Nevertheless, all retailers selling non-essential goods will struggle to get back on their feet following the lockdown. Instead, it is those that endeavour to bring forward innovative changes, dealing with stock issues and the cost of implementing effective safety measures, that will succeed. I, for one, recently saw a local seafront restaurateur pivot quickly to serve customers outside of their premises with disposable cups on a sunny warm weekend, and tailors have gone from making dresses to producing and distributing face masks. In addition, a more customer-focused approach will be required, and retailers will need to consider offering deliveries, and implementing effective socially-distanced click-and-collect services.
The engagement of local High Street businesses with the community could drive lasting local loyalty, and an appreciation for the High Street that many may have previously taken for granted. If people shop more on their doorstep, the snowball effect will lead to more and ‘better’ shops being there; a mixture of brand names and independents feeding customers to each other.
Associate, Flude Commercial, Chichester Office
Chichester BID Board Director