Over two thirds of Britains think independents can save the high street, study shows

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At a time when the government is predicting what will save the Great British high street, Groupon and retail analysts, Kantar Retail, have released The Future of the Great British High Street: Voice of the Consumer report voicing what British consumers actually want to see change.

Questioning 2,000 shoppers nationwide revealed 71% would visit their high street more if there was a greater range of independent shops, while just 38% requested more chains suggesting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and smaller retailers have a big opportunity to boost local commerce. The survey also indicated a nation of frustrated parking space finders, as 54% claimed they would visit the high street more if it had better parking facilities.

How consumers want to shop

Following the rise of online retail in recent years, 42% do like the convenience of online shopping, but 58% still prefer the in-store experience suggesting that online heavyweights won’t put physical stores out of business anytime soon.

At the other end of the scale, more traditional catalogues are dying a death, as less than a third never use them and just 0.5% plan to use this channel in future. When it comes to service, the majority of shoppers are still hungry for a good deal with 57% wanting more discounts and promotions, as this is what almost three quarters (73%) of British consumers spend their time looking for.

Despite an industry push for self-service, consumers are fighting back. A personalised experience is still very much in demand, as 46% would like high street businesses to know who they are and what they want. This is even true for online retailers, as nearly half of shoppers would like them to have physical stores, so they can touch and see what they want to buy and have human interaction.

The rise of the retail machines

While mobile shopping and online channels are on the wish list, virtual shopping could be a thing of the future. Nearly a third – 31% – of respondents said that hologram projections of products and items on themselves or in the home environment would be their ideal in-store shopping experience. However, not all retail technology is welcomed. Self-service facilities in-store has divided the nation; while 37% are in favour, almost half view it negatively.

Richard Jones, VP of national accounts, Groupon UK and IE, said: “Despite the rise in online shopping and self-service technology that businesses should support, it seems that the back to basics approach of having physical stores and specialist staff on hand is critical, as consumers want to emotionally connect with the brand, talk to experts and physically see and touch products.

“Consumers also want more bang for their buck. As such, independent businesses must consider how to make their offer stand out both on and offline to deliver better value, quality and customer service. By acting on what customers want, they can boost footfall and local commerce – we are helping small businesses do just this, so that they thrive on the high street.”

The winners and losers

The findings also uncovered a strong desire for certain types of business. Specifically, shoppers want more clothes shops (31%), artisan food and drink shops (30%), book shops (20%), bakeries (17%), leisure facilities (14%) and restaurants, cafes bars and pubs (15%) on the high street. Interestingly, shoppers weren’t afraid to say which businesses they thought had the shortest shelf life predicting that betting shops (26%), mobile phone shops (18%) and estate agents (18%) will cease to exist on the high street in 5-10 years’ time.

Bryan Roberts, director of retail insights at Kantar Retail, said: “The future high street is shaping up to be very different to how it appears now – the fact that shoppers demand to see a wider variety of businesses matches what we are seeing in the industry. High streets will be less reliant on retail, and more focused on broader hospitality, leisure and service facilities to encourage people to meet socially and interact more with the local community.”

The Future of the Great British High Street: Voice of the Consumer report can be downloaded from http://gr.pn/businessbreakfast

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