There is a tendency for headlines to promote the idea that high streets are losing their place within cities and towns as customers begin prioritising online sales over brick and mortar experiences. However, while high street retailers have certainly become familiar with the challenges of changing demand, there is actually a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that brick and mortar retail remains not only popular among younger shoppers but also that it is growing too.
When investigating the retail preferences of Generation Z, over 80% of respondents confirmed they enjoy shopping in brick and mortar stores. Other studies demonstrate a similar fondness for the experience offered by physical stores over the distance of online retailers, and many believe that the value of the high street is now being celebrated as a result of the lockdowns with many customers seeking tangible and social experiences.
The effects of a pandemic on the nation’s high street are still being scrutinised with the transition into a post-pandemic society also bringing about its own changes. However, the idea that personal interaction has grown in popularity is very clear. Customers are returning to the high street to interact with retailers and products, having realised the value of the experience.
Retailers are capitalising on this by further emphasising the experience of retail, offering events alongside their products. These activities have a broad range, with examples like coffee tasting sessions at Nespresso stores to spa experiences at Lush being among the most popular.
In addition to experiential retail, shoppers are showing a greater preference for efficiency of purchase. This means that, when comparing online delivery options, which typically take one or two days, with the same-day pick-up options of click and collect, customers are choosing the more immediate option.
This is leading stores to dedicate retail space and services to click and collect operations, promoting same-day purchases on sign fittings, drawing in customers who would prefer to visit the high street if it means obtaining their chosen product more quickly.
Younger generations are also seeking out spaces that support social media activity, a need which is being met by retailers who are offering backdrops and products that can be photographed and shared online. This social media stylisation of retail stores, with an emblematic preference for brightly lit rooms, neon signs, and statement displays is drawing shoppers in who not only want to browse and purchase products but share the activity online too, drawing from a brand’s interior design to the benefit of their own profile.
Many business owners are also meeting the specific desires of younger generations too, filling window displays with designs that adhere to popular trends, as well as placing an emphasis on ethical purchases, such as carbon-neutral manufacturing and upcycled products. By doing so, retailers are establishing a personal relationship with their customers who are increasingly loyal to brands that they believe suit and support their personal image, both visually and ethically too.