High streets and town centres can survive and indeed flourish, even in the face of threats such as regional shopping centre, superstores and e-commerce.
However it requires not only physical changes and financial investment but a sea-change in mentality for all those involved from retailers to local councils and a major realisation that the traditional make-up of the high street and indeed town centres cannot remain the same but must become an immersive cocktail of retail, services, leisure and housing.
Commercial success will only come through an investment in the retail community.
In terms of the retail offer itself – for place managers, counsellors, BID Directors, town planners and all those responsible for the regeneration of town centres & high streets - the corner stones for a thriving retail destinations are the right assortment of shops and then each one as good as it possibly can be!
“The right shops & the best shops”
VM-unleashed has developed 2 tried & tested deliverables to make any high street retail offer relevant, competitive and commercially successful.
Venue Mapping ensures that any retail location has the right critical mass and mix of shops, cafes and leisure outlets, the correct market positioning and a hit-list of appropriate retailers.
Vendor management works with councils, BIDs and individual retailers to introduce best practice retail processes and awareness, and advise on the introduction of tools across a retail community such as façade restoration, visual merchandising, loyalty programmes and online fulfilment.
Retail location analytics enables any retail location from town centres & shopping centres to leisure parks & airports to deliver the most commercial mix of retail stores by product categories, type of stores and market position. In contrast to prevailing culture this necessitates the creation of critical masses of traditional competitors for the mutual benefit of all. The battle is to build traffic and no single retailer can do this but all can sell more from the additional footfall flocking to a category destination. Customers don’t want to fail in their shopping mission, particularly when inconvenience is part of the journey, and only the offering of sufficient choice can persuade the modern customer to travel for shopping.
In this lifestyle and brand orientated culture it is not simply the combination of stores selling the correct categories that is important but that they represent the correct mix of retailers from independents and local destinations to regional chains and international brands. Lifestyle positioning is everything and allows the practicalities of shopping success to transcend to emotional engagement.
This is when you become a retail destination. When retail and services, shops, banks, beauty salons and bakeries combine to capture the target customer, where an endless cycle of events and activities serve to perpetually attract this same customer and where food supplied as fast food foraging or sophisticated dining complements the retail and satisfies the same customer appetite.
Know your shopper, know what retail and services they need, build the correct store numbers and size of stores, attract the correct product mix and you are well on the way to destination success. Retail location analytics will tell any retailer where they currently stand, compared to local competitors and to where they need to be, and supply the road map on how to achieve the goal.
The practicalities of becoming a retail destination can be formidable which is why working “one shop at a time!” is the perfect way to build the critical mass and to create the momentum of the retail snowball. Attracting professional chains is an important part of the process but the winning formula requires the integration of local retailers and independents to offer the unique flavour essential to any retail destination.
Being independent does not mean being incompetent. “Working one shop at a time!” can create professionalism in the smallest retail business in assortment planning, buying and merchandising, store design, display and visual merchandising, marketing, promotions and customer service. Independent is essential for independents, self-reliance a requisite of retail destinations but an injection of retail expertise at all levels of a retail business, BID, leisure or cultural institution can be worth its literal weight in gold.
Even with the correct retail mix, quantity will not off-set the lack of quality. It is the increased retail professionalism that propels independent traders to become “local destination retailers” that in turn transforms tired old towns into shopping heavens, neighbourhood wastelands into convenience wonderlands and fuels the evolution of leisure, travel and cultural destinations into viable and valuable retail venues.
Ultimately it is this combination of quantity and quality that will create successful retail locations, drive traffic and footfall and create the virtuous cycle that can save and regenerate the retail heartlands of traditional high streets and shopping centres whilst integrating successfully newer less likely locations to complement and compete on a healthy level for the benefit of everyone.
So what about you?
Do you know what is the correct commercial proposition for your town centre or high street?
What combination of retail stores, sizes, categories, price-points and tastes do you need to be commercially viable?
What level of professional retail skills do your retailers have and where are the steps required to achieve best practice?
What support do you need to provide to evolve traditional independents into local destination retailers?
Are your high streets and your independent retailers in need of some strategic investment?