The High Street is Not Dead.
With House of Fraser on the brink of collapse, the question has been asked today in the press. "Is the high street dying?". The simple answer is no. It's not the high street that is dying, it is the big chains that forget how to serve customers that are.
Having been brought up in a retail environment, retailing is in my blood. I've watched and learnt from the best in my parents and their parents. Customer is king. The art of conversation is king. Acknowledging a customer is king!
It seems obvious enough but this gets lots on the big boys who have to juggle paying large rents, rising wages and supply and demand issues. They somehow forget the customer and I feel this is what has happened to House of Fraser.
Having had first hand experience of the lack of service, not for myself but on our twice a year visit to the mens department for my husband. He is the opposite to me and probably most of my customers. He is a typical man who doesn't buy weekly (yes us ladies do! ) but leaves his shopping trips to buy in bulk twice a year. So armed with a list of several things to buy and excited at the prospect of having a splurge, we would choose HoF as it had the keys brands.
Now I'm not blaming the staff on the shop floor for this but I am blaming the management. Having the idea of wanting to have a spree, there was not one person willing to take themselves away from the safety of behind the counter, stop their conversations to come over to take the 56 pairs of jeans we had acquired or ask if we were looking for something and needed help. Instead I am forced to go into my day job and start fetching different sizes and even checking their own website to look for colour options.
Not too dissimilar to the Pretty Woman 'Big Mistake' scene where she walks into the boutique with bags showing how they had missed their chance, this is how we have been left whilst shopping at HoF. We left a changing room with 15 pairs of jeans, a couple of Boss shirts and came away with maybe one t-shirt. Not only for security reasons should the changing room be more manned but the fact that we left only buying 1 item and off to the next shop. There is no incentive to go back.
Why when they have the higher end brands and aesthetically pleasing stores, do they forget the golden rule of service. It's not the size of the ship, it's the motion of the ocean!
So going back to the question of is the high street dying? No i don't think so. I think the stores that are not concentrating on their customers are but large stores like John Lewis, M&S and independents are the heroes of the high street. I don't speak for all independents but where I live, we are surrounded by some true gems, where behind each local boutique and business is a local person or family, working their socks off to make sure their customers are happy and stay happy.
We may not have the big store fronts or the central positions in a shopping mall, but Independents locations are often on the backbones of the high street that all help to give their town their own identity. Who wants to visit a soulless shopping centre when they visit a new town, they could be anywhere. Instead it's the places like The Shambles in York, The Lanes in Brighton etc that make the town and give it its make up.
Independents realised that 80% of trade will come from 20% off their customers. Retaining a customer is key. I look after my customers and buy for specific people in mind, who are messaged when it arrives to let them know before the rest.
It's up to the local councils and BID districts to take notice of us indies and give us the support we need to help keep the high street alive and more importantly survive so that we can keep our wonderfully loyal customers happy.
Right, id better get back to work!