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RETAIL ADVISORY BOARD: Is the High Street really dying?

Jory Mackay
RETAIL ADVISORY BOARD: Is the High Street really dying?

This month we asked our retail advisory board what steps they are taking to encourage people to visit their store rather than shop online.

Here's what they came back with...


Mark Taylor, Dawsons Music
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“Shopping is no longer about a single channel, nor is it about multi-channel, it's about multiple influences on how and where we shop. It's no more about the Internet as it is about the High Street. Focusing on a single aspect of shopping behaviour is severely limiting your opportunities. A shop owner who doesn't have a website is missing out. Likewise, a web-only retailer who ignores social networks is also missing out. Customers find us in a variety of ways and in my opinion it's our responsibility to give customers what they want.

As a retailer with shops, I want people to visit my shops, but I accept that they may have found me via the Internet, which in itself could be any one of a thousand places. So I need to be both willing and able to give them what they want. In short, this means having shops in multiple locations that are well presented, staffed with knowledgeable people and offering a broad range of products. It's also about having a transactional website that's fast, easy-to-navigate, contains good information and also has a broad range of products. It's about engaging with Customers online, whether this be via our own website, Facebook, Twitter or any other social website. Whether you like the phrase or not, omni-channel is here to stay.”


Mike Podesta, Cranes of Cardiff

“Open your doors in the evenings. We set up a stage in our store and invited students from Cardiff’s Atrium (University for Creative& cultural Industries) to perform. Bands from the first three years of the course performed, and these students really enjoyed themselves that evening and we got a lot of positive feedback after the event from the students, their parents and friends and the university lectures. It was really easy to organize. We just set up a PA, put out a few nibbles and it took just two staff. We sold a few accessories, but more importantly it was a great way to engage with the local music community.

 We also staged another evening entitled “A career in the music industry” hosted by Producer Ken Reay (EMI, Polygram among others). I think that these evening events have helped us maintain our footfall, and stay on the local musician’s radar.”


Simon Gilson, PMT

“One of the reasons I have never had any faith in market research is that they ask a question and give you a statistic not an answer because the way in which the question is asked. This question is one of those prime examples. Is the ‘death of the High Street’ nigh? I believe that unless our planning departments and local governments drastically change their whole approach to retail and the rateability of property then I'm afraid the answer is yes. But that has nothing to do with the future of bricks and mortar stores. I have absolutely no doubt that multi channel retailing is the only future - in-store, online, in print and mobile. The fact is that our destination bricks and mortar stores have faired better through the excesses of these hard times than our online businesses. I believe that a lack of faith in the stability of E-tailers in general is a driving factor but I'm sure it's the overall package that drives business in your direction. Up until only a few years ago lead by the United States data, the writing was on the wall for physical retail.

The latest data shows an appreciable softening in online sales revenue compared to real stores. As always the devil is in the detail, but the survivors will be financially sound businesses with strength in all the areas. Wherever their location, good stores aren't for the history books any time soon!”


Rupert Bradbury, JG Windows

“For me it’s about offering the most professional retail presence we can on the High Street that wherever possible, compares to the big High Street names such as John Lewis, M&S etc.  Sounds clichéd, but it really is all about having a wide range and plenty of stock, at competitive prices, with knowledgeable staff with that professional approach, who ensure that the shops look at their best all of the time.  We work hard to make customer’s feel welcome, and try to make a visit to our stores the least intimidating it can possibly be.  We also run extensive TV advertising campaigns on ITV, which of course ensures that the vast population of the North East will be reminded of our existence, and hopefully visit us ‘in the flesh.’”


Andrew Nixon, Music Room

“We try to ensure we have the most compelling offer, not just in terms of product, but in how it is merchandised and marketed within the store. This starts with the windows and follows through the whole store. We also train our staff to greet and engage our customers, to spend time with them and make them feel special (not something you can get online). In addition to this we try to have regular in-store events - in the last week we have had Greg Koch evenings in a number of our stores, and the York store had a Gretsch day last Saturday. You have to work hard at outreach, it's not something that lands in your lap, but it’s an invaluable point of difference.”


Noel Sheehan, Sheehans

“Retailers have to give their customers compelling reasons to visit their stores. It starts with the standards of service and relationships we build with our customers. Good stocks are vital. After that, we try to give customers as many reasons as possible to visit us. Repairs and tuition are two obvious examples, and in store events also help to establish the visiting habit. Once the customers are in the store, there's no excuse not to make the sales.”


Roy Chudobskyi, Nevada Music

“To encourage customers to visit you in-store - especially for a shop like us where we are not on the high street - it's all about creating the ultimate shopping experience and atmosphere - something an online shopping experience fails to do. In these tough times you need to create that word of mouth so that customers know you are the place to shop at. That's why we use our website and social media (Facebook/Twitter) to drive customers to the store and create a community where customers are made aware of what we are getting up to on a daily basis. We want to create a buzz so customers want to come in person rather than shop online. We offer in-store only promotions such as loyalty cards, prize draws, quizzes for tickets to concerts as well clinics such as our Ukulele days and we’ve even had the band members of Whitesnake come in and do a clinic.

We also offer services such as in-store repairs/guitar servicing and equipment hire - all tools that drive people through your door.

Once people are in the shop, creating amazing interactive displays gives that hands-on experience that is so crucial in our trade.

When you combine all this with the right mix of staff and stock you’re on the right track.

The web can be a faceless entity driven only by low prices, so to switch customers away from this you have got to give them the ‘wow factor!’ which is something I think we do quite well. Giving the ‘Rock n roll’ experience mixed with good customer service is a sure way to beat the web every time.”


Andrew Wass,

“We have just refitted our York showroom to greatly improve our in-store customer experience, as we know that face-to-face sales and demonstrations will always be a very important part of our industry. However, we strongly believe that ‘Multichannel retail’ is the key to success. Our customers will decide what the most convenient method for them to make a purchase is, and it’s essential not to create any barriers that might prevent a transaction from taking place. If a customer prefers to shop online then our industry should embrace that preference and provide the best possible experience, or we will all lose out to the likes of Amazon and other online retailers from outside of the UK.”

Tags: Retail , news , mi pro digital edition , MI Pro January 2013 , Retail advisory board

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