This blog has a number of recurring themes – or nightmares. Most of them are focused around the themes of the mis-use of data, the lack of reaction about the structural change underway across retailing and the unwillingness of many to recognise the many positive stories about retailing that can be found in many places.
So it was with interest that I read a twitter DM from someone who shares these themes. He pointed out that perhaps the tide is beginning to turn. There was a recent Which report about the growing number of independents in some towns, he noted, but also a report by Alvarez & Marshal which seemed to provide a more balanced view than many. Also interestingly the coverage of this report focused on the rising operating cost structures of the retail sector and not on the normal ‘death of the high street’ nonsense.
Now the report does not make pretty reading. It points to the structural changes underway, claims that retail multiples still have 20% too much space, focuses on the dichotomies within and between towns around the have’s and the have not’s (prime and other), and the rising (and crippling) cost structures for many retailers. It makes a stark, and in my view overblown claim that 35% of sales will be online by 2024. Even if that growth from now is half correct however, it is a scary number.
But what I find interesting in the report is, for once, an acceptance of the restructuring underway and an analysis and discussion of the methods and demands to manage and to meet the challenges. In particular, it focus on adaptability and the coming consumer groups.
On the former it points to alterations in rents, leases, break clauses and a willingness to consider new models and approaches with regard to property. On the latter, the report focuses on Generation Z, but points out that these digital natives are looking for entertainment, education, environment and escapism and that stores that embrace this are well placed to capture this market. Ways of doing this are outlined.
So, for once, we have some engagement with what physical space IS needed and how it can be made progressive and dynamic for consumers. This is a nice and welcome focus given the too easy stress on the vacated space from retail.
All of which is a way of introducing what I will be up to from 8-9pm on Tuesday 12 November. For a couple of years now, Richard Shorney has been running #IndieHour – a weekly twitter chat for anyone remotely interested in the wellbeing of their town, village, High Street or community and making use of the independent small businesses that operate there. #IndieHour has been going for 2 years and has a weekly reach of 250k+ people
They have taken the rather extreme step of inviting me to be a guest. So if you want to see how it goes, take part or simply want to see what #IndieHour gets up to, then check out the #IndieHour hash tag and get involved.