Bricks and mortar aren’t going to disappear completely, as long as those still playing in that space are tuned in to what the consumer wants and expects when they part with their cash. But it will look very different in a few years as a result of recent changes - and this represents real opportunity for innovative ideas for using the space, whether you are a big brand or a small independent.
Take Bristol, which has one of the healthiest independent shopping scenes in the country and where, for every High Street restaurant chain or retailer that closes, independents are opening – and thriving.
Wapping Wharf is home to CARGO, the city’s first ever retail yards made of converted shipping containers. It has a strong independent focus in line with the vision to create a new quarter for the city, with units set across two floors and glass frontages that look out over the waterfront and outside terraces and a mixture of eating, drinking, retail, services such as massage therapy and a barber and even a museum. Such was the success of CARGO 1, CARGO 2 opened shortly afterwards and no one would be surprised to see CARGO 3.
Clifton Village, despite the introduction of a residents parking zone restricting visitor parking during the day, continues to flourish with household names Waterstones and The Ivy two of the latest to show confidence in the village, sitting happily alongside a mix of traditional and independent retailers in one of the most historic parts of the city and demonstrating the importance of the right location.
These are probably what you would call ‘sticky streets’. When the High Street first evolved, people wanted a shopping experience, somewhere they could ‘stick around’ and enjoy the destination, combining shopping with eating, drinking and socialising. They wanted to experience something different every time they came back, not the same sterile warehouse environment of the out of town mall or the chain store where everyone in every High Street looks the same. Whilst sitting at home surf shopping might be convenient and quick, it also doesn’t create an experience. I think in many respects; the High Street has gone full circle.