What a year just gone. Changes in shopping and retail are gathering speed.
Why is city retail in difficulty? Online rivals can prove more convenient to the modern
shopper and they stock everything with a click at the other end of a globally reliable
parcel service. Asphyxiating costs like rent and rates are seriously out of sync with
falling incomes at the bricks and mortar till.
Consumer side, it looks like consumption fatigue has set in. Many haven’t had a pay rise
in a decade. Shoppers are no longer looking just for the retail names present or the size
of the stores; sophisticates, they are choosing style over brands. High-tech and
travelling light, these consumers want to be able to consume anytime, anywhere and
when it suits them. Consumers make their choices based on the entire experience. Is the
city centre convenient to get to? Are there ample transport links? A city that goes
beyond shopping to offer a decent meal or coffee, healthy and life-affirming activities
plus something entertaining, captures their interest.
Can we put these two together again or is this our Humpty moment?
Well, consumers are still out there. Shopping Centre News says 54% of people visit their
high street at least once a week, with one in ten visiting every day. Twenty-eight new
outlets actually opened in Chichester last year. Many were not in retail but only 5 were
It looks like the future could lie with the independent business. Flexible, nimble, these
cost-conscious SMEs provide for a diversified customer base and cater for almost
anyone who walks through their door. In there we can still buy what we want and when
we want it because they are not tied to a particular supply chain. Those able to react
quickly to change have a fantastically loyal customer base. But the business rate system
sure needs overhauling and struggling retailers should no longer be relied upon to prop
up ailing town centres from reduced profits.
The glue in all this? Well, who doesn’t like being recognised when they walk in?
Chairman Chichester BID