The changing landscape on the high streets

Retail is changing. It is all too well reported that high street brands are collapsing, and among them millennial-beloved Toys ‘R’ Us; electronics business Maplin; Conviviality plc, the Crewe-based alcohol wholesaler and owner of the ubiquitous Bargain Booze chain. Recent news indicates that good old Marks & Spencer – that very touchstone of the British high street – are feeling the heat, too.

As a PR that has spent most of the last 20 (odd) years in the retail arena, with early years spent looking after Tammy Girl (remember them?); the then St Michel (yep, Marks & Sparks) through to Tesco Plc and most recently Meadowhall shopping centre, Harvey Nichols and Joe Brown’s among others, my question is, what is the future going to look like?

The papers would lead us to believe it’s all doom and gloom with tough conditions and flat consumer spending reflecting store closures and dreaded job losses.

But as with all periods of adversity, when the going gets tough, the tough get going (cue the Record Breakers theme tune for those of you old enough to remember that golden era…)

There’s no room for nostalgia though. And I think that’s the crux. There’s no question that retail is going through a challenging time. Online, e-commerce and the macro economic issues of uncertainty surrounding Brexit have played a part in the current climate, but for those that can respond to the current consumer changes and preferences (we’re a promiscuous lot…) – look forward, note back, the future will be bright.

An ability to listen, reflect and respond is what is needed to keep things moving and the high street open. I hope retailers can rise to the challenge. Not a bad message for the rest of us, either.