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"An insightful and refreshing look at the way consumers and retailers interact in this modern age.”

Sir Stuart Rose,
Chairman of Marks & Spencer plc

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High Times in the High Street?

Digital is here to stay but it hasn’t killed off the High Street. What’s more it won’t. Industry pundits write that a face to face shopping resurgence is taking place which they claim has been brought about by convenience retailing for groceries and consumer interest in independent retailers at the expense of the major brands. But these comments seem naïve and I believe miss the underlying trends that are driving face to face sales.

 

On the face of it you might consider that John Lewis’ Christmas results argue against me as the brand experienced an overall sales increase in the five week period of 5.8% with flat store sales and a 19% uplift in digital sales.

 

But looking at MD, Andy Street’s “Market Beating Omni-Channel Christmas” results more closely shows a different story.

 

Back in September last year I reported that The Centre for Retail Research had found that 86% of all consumer purchases complete in store.  I’ve received many comments from retailers and industry pundits suggesting that they think I am off my trolley in suggesting this.  Which is why it’s so nice to be able to flag up my beer mat analysis of JL’s results.

 

Try this….

 

Picking my way through the JL numbers I see that on line sales represent 36% of the total implying that in store sales stood at 64%.  Click and Collect represented 56% of on line sales (i.e. 20.16%).

 

Which tells us that in John Lewis’ case 64% + 20.16% i.e. a total of 84.16% of sales completed in face to face space.

 

So, its 84% not 86%! Big Deal! John Lewis are arguably the UK’s most advanced  “clicks & bricks” retailer so I would expect them to be leading the pack with 16% pure play digital sales.

 

The fact remains that in over 80% of cases the last experience that customers will have of any brand before they get their hands on their purchases is in face to face space. Retailers who spend all of their investment on the front end of the sale, in digital space, are missing the point.

 

It’s no longer High Street, or digital, or on line or mobile. It’s all of them, together at the same time.

 

The High Street is not going to go away any time soon. It’s not just a place for charity shops and drinking expensive and elaborate coffee. It’s a sensible place to conclude our purchasing tasks, which will include those that we started on line but may also involve us in a physical check on the item, quizzing staff in store before placing our order or just collecting what we've already bought.   

 

So we need our retailers to thoroughly think through their customer journey and design it! Wherever it starts, 80% plus end up in face to face space. Could we please have a little more consideration around making the “Click & Collect” journey a seamless part of the shopping journey? Could we have more thought please around how I attract the attention of a busy shop assistant to help and advise me when I need it and how you can ensure that I get timely, accurate and meaningful input from your hard pressed staff?

 

In short, if you want a market leading Omnichannel sales period maybe it’s time to offer your customers market leading experiences.