High Street

Lucy Handley is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and has also worked in advertising agencies so can bring a unique perspective to client-agency relationships when writing on this topic.

High street Blog

Blog/response to retail letters in 15 Sept issue

Marketing Week’s cover story ‘How to repair Britain’s crumbling high streets’ published earlier this month attracted a lot of comment online and in the magazine.

While some readers found the five broad points interesting (open an outlet, find a new territory, become an educator, use management by walking around and embrace the virtual high street), others were much less impressed.

Some felt that the feature missed out important solutions, such as working with councils to make shops accessible and parking reasonable, working with government to keep business rates down and to focus more on local consumers. Others said pop-up shops would be a good use of the 16% of retail units that are empty or that more effective online targeting should be used by store brands.

But the feature is based on conversations I had with some of the top retail brands in the country including Morrisons, Aurora Fashions (owner of Coast, Oasis and Warehouse), eBay and Debenhams. EBay’s vice-president for fashion Miriam Lahage, who has a 25-year career in retail, told me that she is talking to fashion brands about each of the five points and they resonated with Mike Shearwood, Aurora’s chief executive.

I take the point that Carpetright is not the best example of a flourishing retailer – it was used to illustrate the idea that businesses should continue training staff in hard times – but the fact that it has stuck to its guns when it comes to training suggests that it values its employees and wants to do better as a retailer.

I also understand that encouraging retailers to use e-commerce more could be thought of as a bit old hat. But some of them are not. Primark, for example, recently denied rumours that it is to start selling online. Given the demand shown by the crowds in the streets when a new store opens, it could be a good idea for it to open an e-shop. I thought this was an important point to make especially given the constant focus retailers give to  being ‘multi-channel’.

And while opening an outlet is clearly not something which happens on a high street itself, the brands that do so find it a useful way to shift stock – via an out-of-town specialist such as McArthurGlen. Arguably, using an outlet will help a retailer to sell more and thus help to protect the whole chain wherever its stores are.

If anyone has further examples of strategies which are helping particular retail brands survive and thrive, let me know vialucy.handley@centaur.co.uk

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Lucy Handley

Lucy Handley is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and has also worked in advertising agencies so can bring a unique perspective to client-agency relationships when writing on this topic.

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