Given the news concerning companies such as East and Maplins going into administration, you might imagine that our Consumer CFO Breakfast Briefing was a gloomy affair but, aided no doubt by the Wolseley’s beautiful surroundings, attendees remained cautiously upbeat about the future of the High Street in the UK.
Although those present – including representatives from Tasty Plc, Arcadia and Global Brands Group –agreed that the High Street is likely to continue its drift towards becoming more of a social than a purely shopping destination, they remain confident it will retain its importance. In particular, they highlighted the creativity and agility of many retailers in adapting to changes in consumer habits (including the rise of e-commerce), and in overcoming challenges such as the recent hike in business rates.
A key ingredient of the success of brands such as Top Shop, for example, is their focus on the in-store experience (“shopping as entertainment”) and adoption of the concession model. A prime example is offered by their 90,000 ft² flagship store at Oxford Circus, just up the road from Cedar’s offices, where a nail bar, beauty parlour and barbers help tempt shoppers through the door and the Benugo café then encourages them to stay.
Over the justly famous Wolseley breakfast, the group discussed how both brands and stores are increasingly recognising the benefits of the concession model, which offers increased financial flexibility (in sharing the burden of rent and other overheads), higher footfall and the power to mirror the convenience of online shopping by keeping customers under one roof.
Before leaving guests also touched on the battle for e-commerce – which most retailers now offer alongside their High Street stores. A key example discussed was that of Amazon, whose dominance of the online market is, to a large part, down to their reputation for excellent customer service.
In summary, all those at the briefing strongly believed that despite the undoubted challenges retailers face, shoppers will continue to value the real-life interaction the High Street offers.
The Consumer CFO Breakfast Briefing, part of our regular series, was held on Tuesday 20 February and hosted by Cedar Directors Lauren Druce (Qualified Finance: Permanent) and Mike Trollope (Qualified Finance: Interim). If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see discussed at a future meeting, then do please get in touch by calling 0203 002 8050.