High street influencers from bloggers and local councils to social media celebrities, town planners and “retail thought leaders” are being invited to join a crusade aimed at creating a more sustainable, long term retail high streets across the UK, by helping them become better equipped for the digital age.
SaveTheHighStreet.org’s founding partners include the Future High Streets Forum, Google Digital Garage, IMRG, Tech City, and start-up PocketHighStreet, whose app helps promote local shops by providing details of their real-time stock across popular digital channels including city guides, business directories, social networks and online marletplaces.
The movement has targeted engaging 125,000 retailers nationwide over the next year, with members saying they plan to begin by visiting every high street shop in Central London.
The campaign began in earnest on 21st July, and is inviting the public to pledge their support by registering at SaveTheHighStreet.org, which will subsequently provide them with updates “and much more”.
SaveTheHighStreet.org say that they have “defined an industry standard blueprint for successful local retailing in the era of “The Connected Local High Street”, with recommendations including “mapping a path ahead” for every local shop, “leveraging the power of the group, sharing exclusive opportunities and levelling the playing field like never before”.
Royston Vasey, it ain’t.
“Together we can democratise the strategies technologies and opportunities in the era of the connected digital high street”, says PocketHighStreet founder Alex Schlagman.
The Future High Street Forum, which brings together “leaders across retail, property, and business”, advises the government on the challenges facing high streets, and helps to develop practical policies to enable town centres to adapt and change.
The IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) has been “the voice of e-retail in the UK” for the past 20 years, and consists of a “large membership community comprising businesses of all sizes.”
IMRG provides big data on retail trends, providing tracking and insight, benchmarking and best practice, and leveraging in-depth intelligence on online sales, mobile sales, and delivery trends.
The Digital Garage Google is a multi-million pound project that provides digital skills training to 200,000 SMEs either online or through ad hoc, pop up training facilities across the UK. Free tutorials are provided by Google, covering building a basic shop website to online marketing or more advanced topics, and providing certification from both Google and IAB Europe.
Tech City, the government sponsored QUANGO, “champion and connect the digital sector in London, the UK and internationally via international trade missions, media engagement and events.”
The recent collapse of BHS, not to mention Woolworths, and indeed most of the high street stores we can remember from our youth (whatever happened to Athena? Snappy Snaps?), coupled with the fact that the UK are amongst the world’s most enthusiastic users of online shopping sites like Amazon and eBay, has presented a unique set of challenges for the modern British high street to overcome.
At least, with the combined forces of the SaveTheHighStreet.org campaign behind them, high street stores will have plenty of resources and advice on hand as they look to arrest the more worrying trends.
Noting that “over 100 shops closed in the 1st half of the 2016 alone”, (from what the HT recalls, about that many opened and closed every month in our childhood hometown) SaveTheHighStreet.org say they are “here to give power back to local businesses to ensure UK High Streets thrive for generations to come.”
If the movement can build a groundswell of support and make good on their promises, perhaps the nation’s shoppers can look forward to hearing news of tangible results and significant actions taken imminently. It’s long been said that, in theory at least, there’s no reason why digital and physical stores, so called “bricks and clicks”, cannot work, if not in perfect harmony, then certainly to the benefit of the paying customer, trying to decide where to spend their hard earned cash.