Jonathan Vowles Chartered Accountants

01234 752 566


What Can Your Business Do If Your High Street Is Dying?

Embracing online ...


House of Fraser has just announced it is closing a large number of its high street stores. This follows other announcements of similar shop closures over the last two years ...

High street retailers all over are feeling the pinch ... except that some aren't!

High street retailers all over are feeling the pinch ... except that some aren't!

copyright: micchaelpuche / 123rf stock photo

Firstly, everyone knows that online sales have been increasing year on year. In the UK, this growth is tremendous. From 11.6% of total sales in 2012 to 24.1% in December 2017. This is a massive switch in the pattern of how people shop.

Secondly, everyone knows that retail sales are declining. Except, er, they haven't. As a whole, retail (both in-store and online) increases as time moves forward; what changes is the split of how and where we shop.

American research, reported in Forbes, shows that stores that cooperated with Amazon did better than average and stores that didn't embrace online struggled. So, if your own high street shop is dying on its feet, one of the drivers will be that you are not embracing online.

"So embrace it!"

Obviously, to embrace online is to have an e-commerce part of your business. This is a bit like saying"all businesses should accept payment by debit card". It really is a 'duh' moment. If you sell retail goods and you don't have an e-commerce store, then that needs to be the next thing you look at.

There are always exceptions though. For example, how do sell ice cream online? After all, getting those frozen lollies through the letterbox without melting is tricky, and it means a specialist delivery. So, it works for supermarkets, but it might not work for an ice cream only business unless they are delivering in bulk.

"Even with the growth of online, the high street is still important!"

UK bricks and mortar store sales grew in 2017 and Amazon opened its first physical store in 2018. Another driver in increasing high street sales will be re-imagining and updating them. Is the future a hybrid store? Maybe a shop window with click-and-collect or some other hybrid retail model?

How can you re-imagine your High Street store? What else can you do? Well, it comes down to the ingenuity and creativity of the business. Think back to the last time you were impressed with a store. The last time you went into a café and thought"wow!"How do you attract customers into your store? The answer is to up your retail game.

High Street stores have to deal with various competing things and be good at lots of them:

  • Your store needs to have stuff that people want. Pretty basic but really important!

  • Your store needs to be engaging and interesting, both physically and emotionally. It needs to have something that attracts customers and be somewhere that customers want to go.

  • Retail shopping also needs to be easy. Easy to park, easy to walk around (or click around), easy to pay and easy to find the things that you want.

  • Your staff should be easy to spot, courteous and helpful.

Also, your whole High Street (not just your store) needs to join in with the 'Shop Local' campaigns. Encouraging people to shop locally helps to bring up your local high street.

If the café near you is always busy, then some of that footfall with spill over into the other shops near you. And spending local creates local employment that will spend locally as well. It is a virtuous circle!

When was the last time you stood back and looked critically at your high street store? Is it a destination store? Do you sell stuff people want? Is it easy to buy in?

"Would you like to know more?"

If you need help looking at your high street store with a fresh pair of eyes then do give me a call on 01234 752 566 or click here to ping me an email and let's see how I can help you.

Until next time ...


More about Jonathan Vowles ...

I've been an accountant in and for business since 1987 and have a wide experience of consultancy, audit, accounts, taxation and wealth planning work from individuals and small businesses to multinational corporations and charities.

My eclectic interests in growing and developing business span a number of areas, which can be summarised as strategic business advice and tax saving advice.

I have worked with the Chamber of Commerce to deliver courses for people about starting up in business and have lectured about tax for a major accountancy practice and for Milton Keynes College.

I relax by reading fiction and by getting away from the office in a campervan.


01234 752 566