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Independent retailers feeling ‘optimistic’ about high street future

More than half of the nation’s independent high street retailers are optimistic about the future of their local high street – and four out of five shoppers would miss their local high street if it was no longer there.

This is according to new research to launch the government-run Great British High Street Awards 2018, sponsored by Visa.

Some 40.7% independent retailers described themselves as ‘optimistic’ about the future of their local high street while 12.3% said they were ‘very optimistic’. Less than one in five (17.1%) said they felt pessimistic.

The research findings also show being part of a local community (41%) and building relationships with customers (29%) are what retailers enjoy most about running their business.

Retailers in the East of England were most positive – 61% say they are optimistic or very optimistic about the future of their high street. Areas including the South West, South East and the West Midlands were close behind, at 55%, 54% and 54% respectively.

However, 27.1% of shoppers described their high street as ‘improving’ while 21.3% claimed that there weren’t enough shops and services meeting their needs. Some 63% said they felt ‘neutral’ or ‘not very optimistic’ about the future of their high street – despite 70.4% visiting their local high street at least once a week, and 9.2% saying they went every day.

However, 81% of people would miss their local high street if it no longer existed – and a similar number believe it is the people they meet there, in terms of both shoppers and retailers, that makes it what it is.

When asked what would encourage consumers to visit their high street, 51.9% said more shops, 36% said better parking or transport facilities and 27.8% said extended opening hours.

Suzan Kereere, head of merchant services, Europe, Visa, added: “Visa is very proud to be supporting the Great British High Street Awards at a time when the nation’s high streets are transforming as both technology and consumer behaviour evolve, with consumers looking for a range of different experiences on their high streets.

“Businesses and communities have shown themselves to be highly adaptable, resilient and creative in meeting these demands.”

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