THE past twelve months have been dramatic for the high street. Several chains have collapsed, and more are under threat.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, retail experts from the University of Salford Business School comment on the current state of the High Street, how important these sales are and how traditional retailers can adapt to new trends.
Professor Dave Spicer, Dean of the Business School at the University of Salford, has a retail background having worked for several national retails chains.
Professor Spicer said: “The phenomena of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are indicators of the changing nature of retailing in the UK and more widely. These started as online retailing events – but are now as pervasive on the high street as they are online. In this sense they are yet another example of the blurring of the lines between traditional and online retailing. Consumers increasingly move between the two fluidly to seek out the best deals.
“Being in Manchester’s Arndale centre yesterday evening it was noticeable how many shoppers had their phones out – checking prices of the products they are stood looking at with other retailers online, and even ordering these from online retailers there and then while inside another shop. This is yet more evidence of the challenges faced by high street retailers, already dealing with significant overheads and declining foot fall, they now have consumers bringing their competition into their shops with them.
“Retailers need to adapt their own models to accommodate this -the critical question is what can you offer in the high street that competition cannot provide online – that has to relate to the service offer you can provide.
“The competition from online is even more of a challenge when high street retailers rely on peak periods of demand such as Christmas to support profitability. Many recent retail failures, for example Toys R Us earlier this year and going right back to Woolworths in 2008 had at their core, businesses that were highly reliant on seasonal trading.
“As a result, its perhaps not surprising that we are seeing high street retailers jumping onto any other ‘big events’ such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday to help drive volume and (hopefully) profitability. They cannot afford not to and lose out even more ground to their competition and it is often the retailers at risk that rely most heavily on these – so it may well be that the retailers with the most to lose are the ones who are most heavily invested in these events. Great deals now may become indicators of more departures from the high street in the new year if increased sales don’t materialise.”
And Dr Gordon Fletcher said: "Some of the larger retailers have finally naturalised the concept and are treating it as a weeklong sale. This itself could be seen a worrying signal to expect more high street CVAs or closures in the post-Christmas slump as attempts to bolster flagging sales figure fall short of expectations.
“The second side to this year's Black Friday concerns value for money. Consumers and retail advocacy groups are beginning to question if some of the advertised Black Friday prices represent genuine bargains or whether there are echoes of sleigh bells in the prices.
“Particular caution is needed with technology items where comparative pricing is only part of the story. With constantly new versions of devices on the market there is a need for caution that the comparisons being made are the equivalent items.
“And then there are the retailers attempting to tackle Amazon head on. Picking up on the tactics from some of the US retailers there is evidence of attempts at matching the prices of Amazon and then offering something extra in the form of vouchers, enhanced loyalty card points or other incentives that will have consumers coming back after Christmas for more shopping.
“As with every Black Friday the buyer should be wary of the offers they find and do their research first before clicking the buy button."