21 August 2019

HIgh Street - retailWhat is the single most important element of a business?

Not too long ago the answer to that question would undoubtedly be the location of your physical premises. So much so, that they repeat it thrice – location, location, location!

Placing a shop away from any footfall was a recipe for disaster. Equally, putting one too close to a competitor brought risk. Then, there were the prohibitive high street property costs, and let’s not even get started on business rates. Location could, and did, make and break businesses.

However, over the past decade or more, all of that has changed.

Now, you don’t need to have a physical presence, you need a virtual one. A website, a social media presence. Setting up a store can be as easy as a few clicks when you use a platform like Mercarto or similar. It’s easier than ever.

This means different priorities. You no longer need to worry about where your store is, but how you are  signposting to it. Rather than seeking areas of footfall, you need to signpost to your site. Investing a few pounds into Google quickly gets that ball rolling. Creative social media and a little ingenuity are the key these days, not the physical location.

So what does that mean for the high street? We are seeing time and again how some of the big shop-front giants are struggling to keep pace in an online retail world, particularly with the uncertain climate surrounding Brexit. Toys R Us, House of Fraser, Homebase, PoundWorld; these are just a few of the well-known names to have disappeared from town centres this year alone.

Retail is changing

Ultimately, consumer habits are changing, as it becomes easier and easier to buy from the comfort of your home and have it delivered the next day, or even within an hour. The question then becomes, how can physical stores compete with that?

That being said, there is undeniably still a lot of weight in having incredible locations. The well-established, global brands, like those looking at me from the harbour while we’re on holiday, are perfectly located. When you have such colossal brand names – like Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel and the like – you can afford to have the prime spots for your stores! It makes sense. These are about giving customers that luxury experience of investing in such premium products. Is that face-to-face experience an essential part of spending £20 on a shirt?

I touch on this in the latest episode of the Mind Your Own Business podcast. In this week’s episode, I also share the secret of timing in business – when is the best time to make your move? It’s one of the biggest challenges that every business faces along the way.

There is no doubt that the retail world is continuing to evolve and change. The way that we consume and buy products never stays still, and businesses must face that challenge to keep pace with this. Innovation is key, and we’re seeing so many ways that bricks and mortar stores are integrating the online experience in-store with Click & Collect, reserve online, checking stock and more.

It’s exciting to see where this integration can take us, but one thing is for sure. Location, location, location isn’t what it used to be.


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