The Mary Portas High Street Review - a response by Golley Retail
Yesterday, Mary Portas, acting as a consultant to the Government, offered 28 guidelines as to how to save the ailing High Streets across the UK. Golley Retail, the marketing services agency that specialises in working with retail brands, offers its response to her recommendations.
Mary Portas published her review of the high street yesterday and made some very valuable and apposite points that would certainly help our beleaguered high streets.
Unfortunately the nub of the issue isn’t necessarily the environment of the high street, it boils down to the approach, strategy and delivery of the shops on it. Mary’s 28 recommendations would certainly create a local oasis for retailers, but customers have moved on from their previous habitual model and would still walk on by despite some very real improvements.
Our love of the online shopping experience has not just made life more convenient allowing us to shop from the comfort of our sofa, it has fundamentally changed our shopping behaviour. A shopper looking to buy a TV pre-online shopping would have read magazine reviews, gone to a range of stores to be ‘sold’ to and would then have made a decision on the day of purchase having taken factors like price, brand and availability into account. We describe this model as ‘Research and Buy’. Now we do the same research using the internet and store visits but crucially we have a new crucial phase - validation. When we go online and find the perfect TV on Amazon or Ebuyer, we scroll down and see the invaluable feedback and reviews from other real shoppers. It’s this validation or reassurance that has become hugely important to all of our purchasing decisions and we switch from brand to brand on the strength of a good write up. Curiously nobody on the high street is offering their customers this crucial piece in the chain. If retailers displayed some of the reviews from existing customers, we can start to match the online model more closely.
Every shop has a different format, personality, different staff and essentially this varies from region to region and dependent on the high street. The format that shoppers are presented with is also a vital part of the process. An online shopper can go straight to the search box winking away at the top of the page so finding an elf hat with integral ears is no problem. On the high street with small retail footprints and often crowded fixtures finding the hat could be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Shops can help the consumer by organising things in a more intuitive way, placing more importance on use, occasion and group products together rather than sticking with the rigid categories of yesteryear. Marks and Spencer’s have cracked it by putting a starter, main course and a bottle of wine in one space and more importantly announcing “Dining for Two for £10” This successful promotion has nothing to with the car park, the rates, empty shops next door although these are all important barriers. This is an example of retailers solving shopper’s problems by considering the items together and their use rather than letting us bumble around a store racking our brains as about what’s for tea.
Retailers, be they in town on the high street or out of town in a huge shopping complex all need to start to solve shopper’s problems and consider what they’re going to do with an elf hat with integral ears and maybe offering them the tights, tunic and belt that would finish the whole elfy ensemble! It’s true to say that our High Streets are being killed off by insensitive local authorities, parking problems and lack of community focus, but more crucially the shops themselves need to raise their game and consider how online has changed their shoppers. Rather than fight against this virtual competitor they need to sneak a peak and start to offer a more intuitive shopping experience that people would park on the pavement to access.