Majority of British consumers think future of high street lies with independent stores

Research by Groupon and Kantar Retail unveils divided opinion about the benefit of ecommerce for the high street

A new report, the Future of the Great British High Street, which presents a consumer “wish list” of what shoppers want from Britain’s high streets was announced today at a briefing led by discount marketplace Groupon and retail analysts Kantar Retail.

The research, which surveyed over 2,000 consumers from across the UK, found that shoppers had three key desires when it came to the high street; range, price and value.

Of these key ‘wishes’, 71% wanted a wider range of independent shops and businesses, with clothes stores and artisan food and drink shops most sought after.

Assessing the research, director of retail insights at Kantar Retail Bryan Roberts noted that many consumers were presenting dissatisfaction about “clone town Britain” with a lack of differentiation in the market.

However, Roberts suggested that consumer opinion also had several “mixed messages,” as although 57% of shoppers wanted existing retailers to offer discounts and promotions, the majority did not want more discount stores.

Consumers were also divided over the benefits of the rising ecommerce trend, as although it was recognised as an added convenience for shopping, 58% of those surveyed stated they preferred in-store experiences because of the face-to-face interaction.

In addition, opinions were divided on whether this increasing use of technology would encourage them to visit the high street with 31% open to virtual product holograms and 37% saying that this type of technology along with self-service facilities was a bad thing.

Three independent small businesses attended the briefing, held at Groupon’s central London office, to contribute to the findings and discuss ways in which support for independent businesses can be improved.

Lorena Oberg, owner of beauty treatment specialist Derma Eraze, Attia McKellar, AZ London beauty salon director and beauty trainer along with Dane’s Yard Kitchen restaurant manager Giorgia Bellanca all emphasised a need for both the government and local authorities to do more to support independent businesses.

Particular emphasis was focused on the need to reduce the threshold of the current large VAT and tax rates for small businesses, which are currently not too dissimilar from the rates placed on big corporates.

Fees placed on parking were also recognised as discouraging for consumers which aligned with the report findings where 54% of consumers said they would visit the high street more often if better parking facilities were provided.

Despite shoppers preferring in-store experiences, the rise of ecommerce and technology was noted as central to retail success by all three attending business owners, whether it be social media or a website, who noted how an online offering could complement a high street presence to help grow a brand and boost customer retention.

Commenting on the report and the “consumer shift” of today, Groupon national accounts VP Richard Jones said:

“It seems that the back to basics approach of having physical stores and specialist staff on hand is critical, as consumers want to emotionally connect with the brand, talk to experts and physically see and touch products.

“Consumers also want more bang for their buck. As such, independent businesses must consider how to make their offer stand out both on and offline to deliver better value, quality and customer service.”

Kantar Retail’s Roberts added: “The future High Street is shaping up to be very different to how it appears now.”


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