By Brian Flesk, head of retail at Hitachi Capital
Does the pandemic spell the end of the high street? No, it doesn’t and here’s why. High streets in our towns and cities are the heartbeat of society, enabling human connection.
As more people become immunised from COVID-19 and restrictions start to ease in the Spring, they will look forward to a return to physical stores for discovery and impulse buying shopping experiences they’ve missed.
Our bricks and mortar high streets aren’t just a collection of standalone large stores and independents, but a place to meet and socialise too, enabling social interaction by blending retail, dining and entertainment.
You can’t test a mattress online, sit on a sofa, test out the doors of a wardrobe. You can’t try on jewellery and decide if it is worth a big investment. You can’t really tell what makes one paint different from another. There are certain aspects of bricks and mortar retail that consumers depend on and these will remain a vital part of our lives.
It’s also an accessible experience for young and old. According to the ONS, a majority of 16 to 64-year olds live within walking distance of their local high street. As students flock back to University towns next year many will also be heading to their high streets to meet up with friends and shop locally.
As bricks and mortar retailers seek different ways to reduce friction in-store, we have seen a significant like for like increase in uptake of point of sale finance facilities since the start of the year. This suggests retailers are gearing up for greater footfall in the months to come.
It’s down to all of us to decide if we want our high streets to survive or thrive. Use it or lose it.