Does the High Street have a Future?

‘The high street is dead’ echoed every newspaper and blog as we sat back and watched the demise of Comet, HMV, and Blockbuster earlier this year.

With super-fast broadband and innovative online media streaming services like LOVEFILM and Spotify, it’s easy to point the finger at the internet for the failure of the high street, but is this a fair judgement?

What does the future hold for retail, both online and in store, and how can we learn from others mistakes to avoid our own obituary? We ask marketing and ecommerce professionals what they think at this year’s Internet Retailing Expo held in Birmingham.

Held over two days, Internet Retailing Expo is the biggest event in online retail and provided us with a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded, ecommerce professionals. This year’s show, which took place last month, drew in a packed Birmingham NEC with famous-name stands, workshops and theatres featuring a packed schedule of inspirational speakers.

But don’t just take our word for it; here’s what the visitors and exhibitors had to say:

So yes, the high street may change, and yes companies will come and go. But with a strong strategy that embraces opportunities rather than fearing them, retailers can survive and even thrive.

Before we blame the internet for the high street’s demise, perhaps we should look at how it can work with new technologies and techniques to provide a truly multi-channel retail experience? Digital is now a major part of the shopping process, and it is vital to the success of any retailer that they implement an online strategy.

So what’s the census from Internet Retailing Expo? eCommerce is not the enemy here; shopping has changed and so has the high street with it.

Do you agree? Let us know what you think below or on Twitter using the hashtag #PCAchat


  • Allan Duncan

    Very challenging question and some extremely useful answers – I particularly like the ‘quick and the dead’ comment from Ray – it sums up the future of retailing.

    Forget Mary Portas – listen to these guys!

  • Hi Natalie,

    It’s a great question to ask. To say that ecommerce is killing the high street is disingenious and ignores the major shift in media consumption. You can’t force customers off the high street, they make a choice and ecommerce can and does deliver value to a lot of people.

    For multi-channel retailers, ecommerce presents major opportunities and can actually help them differentiate against pureplays. I’ve seen this with retail brands I work with – just take a look at the mobile data on how customers are using the mobile channel to interact with brands. Mobile isn’t a direct conversion channel, though you can of course generate sales. However, mobile is better suited to task completion and the use of HTML5 mobile sites and native apps helps companies to provide an always-on experience. When the store closes, the ecommerce operations is still running. Mobile and desktop are there when people are watching the TV and searching online. They’re also there for people to research and exchange info with friends via social connections. They offer new opportunities that a traditional high street environment can’t.

    And let’s not forget the impact ecommerce is having within the physical retail world. Just look at the cool things brands like Debenhams are doing with interactive windows. And I’ve seen plenty of evidence of the ecommerce channel driving value to stores – House of Fraser’s Buy & Collect service is a brilliant example; it’s a major growth area of the business.

    Businesses need to accept the cultural shift in consumer behaviour and understand how ecommerce can help them. It’s no use blaming the Internet, life evolves!


  • Great Piece.
    The high street, as you say, will change – it won’t remain this “one place” to visit, it won’t be the “only place to go” if you want something. If amazon has only showed us one thing (it has shown us many i know) it is that digital will be king of the retail high street – this is something which failing companies over the past few years have paid testament too.

    With that comes a question though, where do we go from here…
    What I mean is, is what we see at the moment as the norm with online shopping the best way to do online shopping – is there enough “butter” (as google say) is it “frictionless”, the answer is no – so how do we go about changing the status qou of ecommerce today?