There’s a lot of cant and whinging complaining from retailers regarding why people don’t buy on the High Street these days. The blames laid at the foot of the internet. Down my way in Hove, East Sussex, shopkeepers on one street are arguing it’s because the street has been pedestrianised.
They argue that with more through vehicle traffic later in the day they’ll fare better. I’m not sure I agree. Here’s the local paper story: Campaigners unite to save their high street. Could a few extra hours of free traffic really help?
This weekend past I went out to buy a few things and I came back empty handed. My problem isn’t about car access or parking problems (I don’t drive) but because of the generally dismal experience of shopping on an identikit British High Street. Amazon is a real challenge but the shoddy in store experience so many shops offer is also part of the problem.
Too few helpful staff
The key point to make is that staff are too few. And those that are there are overstretched. My annoyance isn’t with zero hour, minimum wage staff themselves: it’s never been a good way of working. But it’s impossible to expect these people to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and dazzling delegates for the shop they sell for on such parsimonious terms. Whilst asking a young man for a few details on Saturday regarding a product, it’s safe to say he didn’t have any more information than me. We examined the specs on the box together to little avail. Keen he was, expert he wasn’t.
There’s more information online.
I went home and looked up the item I was after online and found all the details I needed. Such information was not to be found in store. I bought via Amazon this time.
And then they tell you to buy online anyway…
In the big Marks and Sparks down my way I was looking for three items. I couldn’t find one of them in my size in store. I am hardly an impossibly huge leviatian, but the sizes I sought were not available. The shop assistant said: “You’re best to find the item code and buy it online over there.” She pointed me to an oversize console that looked like an iPhone. There you can order for home delivery or click & collect. Yet again I bought online when I got home.
Champions of the High Street need to understand the extent to which they are architects of their own misfortune. What say you?