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What will the high street look like after coronavirus?

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Which High Street businesses survived the coronavirus pandemic?

The recent collapse of long-established brands, including Debenhams and Top Shop, highlights just how the high street is changing, and the way in which the retail stores we’ve been visiting for decades are now disappearing.

This change isn’t purely because of Covid-19, however. Large retail chains with stores around the country were already finding it difficult to survive the trend toward online shopping, but the global pandemic has certainly accelerated their downfall.

So what will the high street look like after coronavirus? Is there a future for retail in this environment?

Adaptability is key for high street businesses

Retailers that adapt quickly to changing trading conditions may survive after coronavirus, perhaps investing in an online shopping experience that retains loyal customers and potentially attracts a new demographic.

One issue is the cost of setting up and operating online, however, and fulfilling customer orders may be prohibitive for some businesses already experiencing poor cash flow. Some larger retailers, such as Primark and Next, are currently surviving these challenging times, but our high street could become attractive to smaller independent shops if rental and rates costs allow.

Flexible rental contracts for the high street

Commercial rents have been a considerable factor in the decline of large retail stores given the sheer number of regional premises they occupy. Even under ‘normal’ operating conditions, the inflexibility of commercial rental contracts has made them unsustainable when companies experience cash flow issues.

Rents based on business turnover are a realistic option for the future, especially with post-coronavirus trading conditions and high unemployment. A little flexibility could make a significant difference to the future for some high street businesses – a potential feature of post-coronavirus trading.

Will small businesses take over?

Small businesses are generally more streamlined than larger rivals, and able to pivot in their product and service delivery. This has helped some specialist and niche businesses to become more established during the pandemic - artisan food providers offering takeaway and home delivery services, for example.

We may see retailers that offer click-and-collect services providing changing rooms at the collection point. This would allow customers to return item(s) immediately, ease the returns process, and potentially reduce costs for the retailer.

Could there be a future for larger high street retailers?

The significant cost of online order fulfilment – storage, transport, distribution, and returns - could prevent some retailers from operating efficiently, offering ‘traditional’ high street brands a chance to regain customers and attract greater footfall after coronavirus.

Consumer shopping habits and behaviour have been forced to change quickly in response to the pandemic, and businesses need to measure and analyse collected data to formulate a plan for the future.

An evolving high street could offer a space for well-established businesses if they can adapt to a challenging new environment – one where newcomers are intent on disrupting a status quo that’s been in place for decades.

A new look for our high streets?

Former retail space could be used for residential purposes, with town centre apartments and perhaps more green spaces becoming a feature of the high street. Designating specific retail areas or ‘quarters’ might also be part of a cohesive new style of town centre - carefully planned to seamlessly incorporate the old and the new.

More consumers living within easy walking distance of shops could protect the financial health of these businesses in the future, whilst boosting the local economy and meeting the varied needs of local customers.  

If you’re worried about the effects of coronavirus on your business, or you’re concerned that it’s in serious decline, Selling My Business can help. Please contact one of our expert team for professional, tailored advice – we have extensive experience of helping businesses in all industries. 

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