High Street Survival

With giants of e-commerce such as Amazon joining the competition and making big bold steps into fashion retail, there are more dark clouds for physical stores.

What a whirlwind and fabulous first week of being 50! I partied and danced with friends on Sunday, jumped on a boat and into the sea on Monday, rode in the sunshine Tuesday, shopped for a client in London on Wednesday then rocked the Albert Hall, London shop research on Thursday, then back home at my desk and dressage competition today, Friday! Woohoo!

There was a certain happy buzz around London this week as it basked in 20-degree sunshine with cloudless blue skies. Summer is not over in the city yet. However, the shops felt deserted whilst the outdoor cafes and restaurants were alive. It’s a tough world in retail. There was more staff than customers in almost every shop I went into, apart from Zara. So what is Zara doing right that the other retailers need to follow, or potentially find themselves sliding down the slippery slope of extinction like many other fashion retailers currently? 

Zara’s has two major drops of new styles every week. Remerchandising floor stock means that when you walk into the same store only two weeks later, it feels like another whole new range needs to be explored, encouraging the consumer to buy now or it will be gone. But it is more than this that keeps the Zara loyalty running high. The price point for the quality of the clothes and accessories is pretty consistent and I believe this is what has made Zara the huge success it has become. Not just because they are at the cheaper end of the scale, but because their garments are mostly made reasonably well, from reasonable quality fabrics in relation to the price point. Shopping in H&M the price points are similar but finding quality items is much more of a needle in a haystack type operation.

The largest competition to the High Street is however online shopping. With giants of e-commerce such as Amazon joining the competition and making big bold steps into fashion retail, there are more dark clouds for physical stores. But I don’t believe it’s a gloomy outlook for physical shops, but only if they adjust their offer from selling cheap volume to selling value and experience. Women will continue to shop for convenience from online, but nothing replaces being able to touch and see the items in reality. We are curious creatures, we like experiences and discovering new things. As humans we are pleasure seekers and who doesn’t like that dopamine high our new purchase brings or simply that good fuzzy feeling of contentment with our choices? Shopping is also a social affair, connecting friends or enhancing mothers and daughter bonds. 

Online shopping removes all of that as well as the ability for our senses to touch or feel our purchase. It becomes about the ease of check out, the speed of delivery and less about the clothes. How many of you are old enough to remember the early Next Directory catalogues which came with little swatches of fabrics alongside the glossy images of hope when wearing the dreamy clothing all laid out on luxury paper in front of our eyes?

I loved living in Antwerp and shopping there. When the new season collections arrived there was always coffee brewing, champagne or water offered to you as you browsed. It wasn’t a rushed or frenzied approach. It was considered and joyful in tasteful stores with passionate, knowledgeable staff.  

Just like restaurants continue to draw a crowd when the product, service, and ambiance are right, bring on wonderful store experiences with quality clothes and the High Street really could blossom again.

Stylish Wishes