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Save the High Street! Support Small Business Saturday on 7th December 2013

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Small Business Saturday What’s happened to our high street? No longer a thriving hub of diversity, quality and sophistication, but a breeding ground for pound shops and closing down sales. Dominated by corporate chains and suffocated by out of town retail parks, we are living in clone towns. Who wants to be the same? As a nation we are both multi-cultural and multi-talented, why isn't this diversity and innovation represented on our high streets? When we walk down our local high street we want to be impressed and inspired not disappointed or despondent! Pride needs to be pumped back into the heart of our communities. Without budding entrepreneurs and loyal customers, life on the high street cannot be revived. We have seen some high streets bounce back with pop-up shops and the reintroduction of local markets, however the creativity and innovation needs to be retained with permanency. We need to put the sparkle back into where we shop and support our independent businesses with solidity. Empty shops, wasted opportunity With many high street retailers falling victim to the recession, more and more shops are being left empty. According to the Local Data Company, Wales has the highest national vacancy rate, at an average of 17.5%, Scotland 14.9% and England 14.0%[1]. The recession is not the only factor which can be attributed to the sorry state of our clone/ghost towns. Supermarkets and retail parks also contribute to the high street decline. Often it is these external factors that disguise the fact that some high street shops themselves played a large part in their own decline; they failed to adapt. Could your entrepreneurial spirit flourish in Britain’s ghost towns? Vacant shops don’t have to represent the gloom of the financial crisis, instead they can be viewed as potential for creativity and growth for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Do you have the resilience and the resourcefulness to adapt quickly to consumer trends/behaviour? Although independent shops on the high street have fierce competition this Christmas with larger companies, they can also join the online market place tapping into the £68.2 billion Britons spent on the internet last year, an increase of almost £10 billion on 2010 according to IMRG, a body which represents the UK’s online retailers. This is equivalent to £2,180 for every adult in the country.[2] If you can’t beat the online retailers, join them! Research from Kantar Retail commissioned by Groupon found that while 42% of consumers prefer the convenience of shopping online, 58% prefer the personal service offered by shopping in-store. The research also found that consumers want to see more variety in their shops, as 31% want more clothes shops, 30% want to see more artisan food shops and 20% want to see more book shops.[3] With these figures in mind, there’s a lot more potential behind the high street shop façade that meets the eye. Independent shops offer a service that supermarkets and online shopping can’t. With better customer service, individual/bespoke products and a unique customer experience, independent shops have an unrivalled charm. You can’t beat the festive feeling of walking down the high street gazing at the whimsical shop displays, listening to the Christmas music playing. Let’s not let all the magic become a distant memory of our high street. With Christmas around the corner, what are you waiting for? It’s not just the seasoned shoppers we are urging to get back onto the high street. With 71% of people willing to visit their high street more if there was a greater range of independent shops[4], it’s the budding entrepreneurs and SMEs that can save the high street. Show your support for Small Business Saturday on 7th December to spark the start of Christmas and save the high street! Happy Shopping and Merry Christmas from Wisteria.
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