What our Midlands High Street Survey told us about the future of retail

We often hear the phrase “the high street is dying”, but is it true? Account executive Nancy Collins-Burgess delves into the results from our Midlands High Street Survey, speaking to experts about the future of the industry.

How the high street is changing in 2020

From increased numbers of empty shop fronts to the rise in online retail, it’s often reported that our high streets are struggling to attract the high levels of footfall that once made them thrive.

Although it’s near impossible to predict buying patterns, we wanted to gain some insight into the future of our high streets by collecting real data from local people to find out more about your shopping habits. We surveyed 262 of you from Birmingham, Derby, Leicester, Lincoln and Nottingham and this is what you had to say.

The results are in

A massive 63% of you said it’s highly important to support local businesses, showing that independents are a big pull when it comes to the high street.

You’re still heading into the city centre during your spare time, but your reason for going has changed. Bars, restaurants and beauty salons are all beginning to reign supreme across the Midlands, particularly in Nottingham, pushing fashion retail out of the top spot of reasons for your trip into town. Also high on the list was the importance of supporting local businesses and independent retailers.

Fashion retail has always been a popular element of the high street, but this former favourite has dropped to fourth in popularity across the region, with 41% of you in Nottingham saying that high street retailers don’t do enough to tempt potential customers in from the cold. Amid the rising demand for leisure experiences, there’s a call for retailers to improve experiential shopping and do more to encourage shopping behaviours to return to our high streets.

Nelson Blackley, retail research associate at Nottingham Trent University

“The survey confirms that over 70% of all respondents visit their local high street, which is good news for their continued survival and suggests that physical stores and the high street still serve a purpose.

“The responses also show that most consumers are keen to support local businesses, which is pivotal for local independent retailers trading on our high streets and in our town centres. There’s real demand for their products, services and experiences that consumers can’t access online.”

Liz Cartwright, managing director at Cartwright Communications

“We’ve gained some truly fascinating insights from our survey. What’s interesting is that the popularity of fashion retailers is on the decline whereas bars and restaurants are on the up, showing that the needs and wants of today’s shoppers are shifting. No longer are people visiting city centres to purchase products, but rather as a social pastime.

“It’s also clear that stores have to work harder to attract shoppers, something independent stores in Nottingham such as Stick and Ribbon and Keishi both do very well. Good customer service is something that we found is key for customers, making them more inclined to come to the high street rather than shop online.”

Ben Tebbutt, director at Nottingham-based, commercial property agent Box Property

“Visiting the high street is no longer a necessity, it’s become a choice that people have to be persuaded towards. Consumers now need to be enticed and this is often done more recently and successfully by restaurants, coffee shops and by retailers that create theatre and excitement.

“I think we’ll see a rise in experience-led retailers who will try and draw locals back towards shopping in-store as a way to capitalise on the growing trend of experiential shopping. The property market is telling us the same thing. Most towns and cities have an oversupply of available space so landlords must be creative and make sure their property is the one that stands out from the crowd.”

Download our Midlands high street survey results for free by clicking here.

By Nancy Collins-Burgess

Nancy is currently working as an account executive during her first year at Cartwright Communications. She is responsible for working on both B2B and B2C accounts, providing digital support across the company and enhancing the business' brand through campaigns and social media management.