#Beeston2020Vision - Retail Revisted
Those of us who are of the opinion that the most pleasurable and memorable purchasing experiences are when ‘people do business with people’ may yet prove to have greater validity in the unrestricted ‘post-Covid-era’.
What will our High Street look like, how will it change and will it be for the better? More academic and clinical analysts may devise their check-lists and forecasts. Valid as they may be let’s take a personal look at where the individual fits.
The ordinaire and mundane are able to be easily purloined on-line. For ‘Quality and Service’ shops should surely have the edge. This will apply most especially where personal items are concerned – all the more so when feeling and trying are factors.
Where personal and particularly bigger-ticket ‘lifestyle’ items are involved the retailer challenge will be to secure ‘commitment to purchase’. Rather than being used for their skills and knowledge to provide advice - the customer then purchasing elsewhere, like on-line.
The era of trading with the man whose name appears over the door has sadly almost passed. This is with some notable exceptions locally and places further afield, like Chester, where such establishments abound. I’m reminded of a colleague who was recruited from ‘down south’. His first experience shopping here in Beeston and commented ‘I’ve realised that when I go into a shop, I’m not invisible’.
Experiencing the inter-personal relationship has to be a vital part of shopping.
Inter-personal relationships are integral and essential - enhancing the shopping experience – something impossible to replicate on-line. Handled well such relationships generate customer loyalty, repeat business and recommendations.
Some local councils and retail trade groups have developed ‘Shop Local’ schemes. Such initiatives may include rate relief and buy-local schemes - with loyalty bonuses, voucher systems, other incentives and benefits. Introduction of local currency – the Beeston Groat perhaps – may be a step too far!
What could our Council and Business Forum do? Perhaps to re-imagine the better aspects of the Beeston BiD (Business improvement District)?
It’s essential to make the area attractive to visitors, shoppers and indeed for the benefit of residents. Thus, providing interesting, involving, absorbing, entertaining and enjoyable experiences. Having the potential to attract shoppers, to retain them, to see them returning. The need to recognise that the intrinsic integration of the ‘visitor experience’ with retail economic success has to be realised for mutual benefits. Recent research from Springboard, the retail data specialists’ states; “What has become clear is that the shift in consumer behaviour from large towns to smaller centres”. Doubtless time to capitalise upon this opportunity.
It seems to me that there are increasing moves away from the trend for multi-nationals, mass and volume - of product homogenisation and sanitisation - the philosophy of ‘never mind the quality, feel the width’. This in favour of customers desire to know about product providence, sourcing and evidence of environmental responsibility. In the absence of positive local action, the ‘stack ‘em high sell ‘em cheap’ merchants may still take an ever-increasing share of the retail market.
Mell Belshaw - 2020
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