Awakening to a changed retail world

Categories: Salford Business School

As shops reopen today, Dr Gordon Fletcher, retail expert from the University of Salford Business School, looks at how the High Street has changed over lockdown, from shops closing, changing type and increasing prices.

Dr Fletcher said: “The build-up to the re-opening of non-essential shops and outdoor eating in England has been so far been a low-key affair. A scan of the local high street over the last week reveals a handful independent retailers applying new coats of black gloss or trendy matt grey paint and the occasional hand-written A4 sign. Beyond there few glimmers of tangible evidence a shopper might not even be sure it was happening. The atmosphere is one of hesitant anticipation rather than celebration.

“The different levels of preparations reflects the precarious position that many small businesses are still facing. Some have simply not opened on Monday. The business has failed, the owner has retired, the business is now permanently working from home or it has become an ecommerce operation.

“But the enforced closures over the last few months have brought other opportunities. Smaller shops have grown into larger premises. Hairdressers have become "vape" shops, toy shops are now bakers and formal hire stores transformed into beauty parlours. Some of this hesitant anticipation is understandable. When the shoppers return to the high street there will invariably be a surge of foot traffic as the built up tensions of lockdown need to vented.

“The biggest risk for the old and new independent high street retailers is that any surge will only be temporary as many shoppers quickly return to their increasingly refined ecommerce habits built up over the past 12 months. For those high street services that cannot be delivered to the doorstep another theme for the re-opening of shops is emerging. Attached to the newly cleaned windows of a local hairdresser is a new pricelist. While the services are familiar and largely unchanged from last year there is a change in prices from the previous offering with a noticeable 20% upward shift across the board.”

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