Is Christmas shopping on the UK High Street dying?
15 Dec 2014|Added Value
Christmas shopping is expected to rise to a total of £90.7 billion in the UK this year, up £2.3 billion from last year. But who will win the battle of the checkouts?
Will the High Street hit back with in-store experiences and hold on to tradition or will online retail take the reins with click & collect and next day delivery services? We asked the team what they thought.
Emily Smith, Brand Associate Director, UK
Currently the high street is on a path to extinction. With the convenience of online shopping, particularly at Christmas, buying gifts from the comfort of your own home has become a nationwide habit. There will still be shoppers on the high street this Christmas, but year on year this will decrease, ultimately leading to the death of the high street.
So what’s to be done? To avoid this sad fate the high street must offer something unavailable to the online shopper – enticing, immersive, exciting experiences that are unique to the store environment.
We are already seeing this happen with the likes of cardholder shopping events (Libertys), book signings (Waterstones), traffic free shopping days (London’s Oxford Street) and out of town shopping centres offering music and food events to mix up your shopping trip. But to truly halt its decline the high street needs to get even more innovative and increase its cultural relevance. Only then will it give people a good reason to get up from their comfy sofas, brave the cold, make the trip into town, pay for parking and un-digitise their Christmas shopping list.
Laura Dodsworth, Field Manager, UK
It’s not a black and white answer. Both online and the high street suit different people for different shopping needs. Online may have the upper hand as it is undoubtedly the more convenient option and it can be kinder to your bank balance – from shopping in the comfort of your own home 24/7, to getting your orders delivered straight to your place of work with no need to worry about the inflexibility of waiting in for the doorbell to ring.
Also it’s far easier to find bargains and deals online, rather than trawling the high street, covering several stores in one hit rather than trapsing between the shops in all weathers.
However, nothing quite beats the charm of Christmas shopping out in the real shops; being in the middle of the hustle and bustle surrounded by glittering lights, the familiar sound of repetitive music that’s recycled year after year and queues of moans and groans from stressful shoppers but this all becomes part of the season’s festivities and not an ordeal.
As long as online and high street remain attractive for shopping then there will always be room for both.
Anna Loughman, Insight Project Manager, UK
The Christmas high street is not dying. We still spend far more in bricks and mortar stores than we do online. Christmas shopping is different as it presents us with the challenge to buy things that will prompt surprise and delight which makes the decision process that little bit more protracted. Online can try, but no website can match up to the potentially mesmerising, multi-sensory experience of a store.
We need all the help we can get to inspire us with ideas and convince us an item is spot-on which is where the stores prevail; allowing you to get up close and personal, utilise all your senses and experience the brand charisma.
Stores offer vital immediacy; great for those last minute shoppers and for those who’ve taken a risk shopping online – and lost – having brought something that’s not as expected and now don’t have the time or vigour to exchange it. Granted online logistics and services are improving all the time but there’s still a gap to close in on the ‘see-it, buy-it, have-it’ experience of purchasing in store.
Online can try, but no website can match up to the potentially mesmerising, multi-sensory experience of a store.