According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) the recent economic recession is not the only factor to have impacted on high-street retailers.
Data published last week suggests shop-vacancy rates are still very high in many areas around the UK, with just fewer than 18,000 retailers closing their doors by the end of 2009.
The Director General of the BRC, Stephen Robertson, commented that the economic slowdown is not the only issue to have affected high-street businesses and it is unlikely that their problems will simply disappear just because the economy has moved into recovery. He went on to say:
“High street shops are often battling big bills for business rates and rents, parking a access difficulties, as well as failure to manage and invest in the area.”
Mr Robertson added that town centres need to be actively managed in order to safeguard local communities and economies.
The BRC’s report on 21st Century High-streets sets out a number of recommendations for ensuring the survival of the high-street. These recommendations include a freeze on all new property and business rates as well as a stronger focus on crime reduction.
Despite this the BRC do not appear to have touched upon the key area that is probably one of the biggest factors affecting high-street retailers today.
It needs to be acknowledged that the internet is arguably the fastest growing resource that small businesses have at their disposal. As a result many first-time companies starting out are utilising eCommerce and online web marketing as a way of selling their products and services. This is essentially what is taking away a large amount of business from the high-street.
It is my belief that a larger number of retail customers are “window shopping” on the high-street to see what products are available and then simply comparing this to what is available online.
With the online marketplace becoming an increasingly competitive arena many online based businesses are able to offer competitive deals that high-street retailers will be unable to match due to the costs of maintaining physical premises and stock.
Most online-retailers simply need an online eCommerce website that has the ability to process customer details and payments. Web-based companies such as Amazon don’t even have their own stock as they can dispatch products direct from the supplier – cutting out the costs of buying in new stock (as well as storing costs) every week.
So, is it any wonder that high-street retailers are struggling when they’re facing this form of competition?