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The High Street Isn't Dead

The Regeneration of Bricks and Mortar Retail

  • Joe Farrell

Whilst there continues to be growing level of negativity surrounding the future of our much-loved high street, it is not all doom and gloom. As a number of retailers shut up shop, an influx of brands that had previously only existed online are now turning to bricks and mortar stores to provide their customers with a unique and tangible shopping experience. Just this year, eCommerce giant Amazon opened its third UK pop-up store in Scotland, whilst Los Angeles-based womenswear brand Reformation announced it will unveil its first UK store in London.

These more successful online brands are adopting physical retail infrastructures in order to provide their customers with a unique and immersive shopping experience that simply cannot be replicated online. For areas in which online retailers fall short, the high street can provide additional value, proving more rewarding to both brands and their customers.

Here are just a few reasons why online brands are turning to bricks:

  1. The need for unique and tangible experiences: Whilst browsing online from the comfort of your own home can be quick and convenient, it is no substitute for the tangible and social experience a customer can obtain when visiting a physical store. People who visit the high street, rather than buying a product online, do so because they are looking for more than just a quick, hassle-free purchase. Recent findings revealed that as many as 85% of UK customers prefer shopping in-store rather than online.
  2. Rocketing returns: Being unable to try clothing on in-store can lead to shoppers ordering multiple sizes of the same item of clothing, trying them on at home, and returning those that did not fit. In fact, according to research we conducted for our recent whitepaper, ‘Are online retailers delivering for customers?’, 62% of online customers expect to be able to quickly and easily return products that are ill-fitting or unsuitable. Online shoppers will continue to expect to return items when they are unable to have a true visual, physical and tactile experience with a product, assessing the quality, texture and size of what they are buying online. Dealing with this upward trend of serial returns can be extremely costly for retailers not only in terms of profit but also the time invested in reverse logistics.
  3. In-person support: A recent report by WBR Insights revealed that people were in fact the greatest hidden strength of the high street, with 19% of retail respondents selecting this as physical retail’s key strength. People like to buy from people and having a physical person that can offer advice on a product or discuss the latest offers, is invaluable.

It is fair to say the growing success of these established online brands has caused a distinct shift in today’s retail landscape. Whilst for many years the high street was dominated by traditional bricks and mortar retailers, it’s the online brands who are able to bring their unique offering in-store that are now seeing some of the biggest returns in this space.

But what exactly will the future of bricks and mortar retail look like?

The future of bricks and mortar retail is likely to look very different to what it does today. Rather than the large department stores and retail chains we are used to, the high street of the future will be a storefront with minimal square footage, with minimal but customizable products.

Instead of simply offering somewhere for customers to buy products, these shops will provide an interactive and immersive experience where customers can try out products before buying them.

Whilst traditional high street retailers may continue to struggle, the brands that survive will be those that break down the silos between the online and offline world and embrace a holistic, omnichannel strategy.


Joe Farrell

As former Vice President of International Operations, Joe managed PFS' locations across the UK and Europe. Joe was with PFS since its inception, retiring after 35 years of hard work and playing a major role in driving the success and growth of our business internationally. Joe retired in 2023 and is enjoying spending time with his children and grandchildren.

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