Mark Hughes, business director at independent media specialist Carat, has commented on the Mary Portas review, which was unveiled last week.
He said: "The Mary Portas Review has thrown into sharp relief the issues facing our high streets today as well as the challenges for the future. There is one phrase that Mary uses that, I believe, now needs to be our start point in addressing the issues; ‘needs based retailing’.
"Increasingly, the consumer journeys of many demographics don’t feature the high street. Why is that? Maybe because consumers perceive the high street to be lacking choice, lacking originality and as expensive vs. other retail channels.
"We need to build a view of the high street from a consumer ‘needs based’ perspective and consider how to use the tools at our disposal to make the high street relevant to today’s increasingly turned-off consumer. Plus we need to differentiate between the national and local high street and understand the best balance of the two- national brand presence can be compelling for consumers, but a lack of local shops destroys differentiation."
Wayne Hemingway, the designer behind the Red or Dead brand, has agreed with this, having told The Drum that "things have to change" to allow more upcoming retailers to thrive in Britain's town centres.
Hughes added: "There’s plenty that the local high street can and should offer; local produce and products, personal service from someone that knows your name and a sense of belonging are just three. But the positives have been forgotten, largely because the local stores on the high street aren’t competing properly in this world of multi-channel retailing. Part of the solution is to redefine their use of media and technology in order to drive engagement and footfall.
"Successful national retailers now frame their offerings from a consumer needs point of view- understanding how their high street presence fits into an overall retail strategy incorporating web, mobile and increasingly social sales. This strategy acknowledges that different consumer need states require different consumer touchpoints. I’m sure that with some local application via, for example hugely increased local mobile and PPC capability, the local high street could benefit from this approach.
"Think about the power of combining a properly executed and maintained web presence (e, m and f-commerce) with the personal touch of local retailers. Add the emotional benefits of your local store to the rational benefits of a locally supported multi-channel web presence and I think you’re becoming very well placed to feature in the local consumer journey.
"There’s a significant job to do, according to Carat’s latest bespoke Consumer Connection Study, only around 3 in 10 consumers would rather shop locally. We need to make it easier and emotionally and rationally beneficial for them to do so."
Carat and research consultancy Synovate Retail Performance have joined with The Drum to name 2012 the year of retail.