16% of online retailers plan to open physical stores on the UK High Street in 2014

17th January 2014

According to the latest research there are exciting times ahead for the High Street in 2014! Regular readers will know that we have been watching the UK high street closely on this blog for several years now – with many units standing empty, pop-up shops appearing and disappearing and Mary Portas drafted in by the government to try to help revitalise our ailing town centres. We’ve also blogged frequently about how diversification and multi channel retail have been the key to  survival for many of the larger stores – we discussed how John Lewis survived Christmas via their strong multi-channel preposition whereas stores such as Blockbuster and HMV failed to look into the future where being prepared for downloads or viewing on demand and a bit of forward planning or online strategy may have saved them from closure (although HMV did manage to claw their way back from the brink, for now). And now it seems this multichannel strategy is a two-way street, as this week saw news of how online retailers are now looking to move into bricks and mortar for 2014.  According to a new survey of 406 SME online retailers, conducted  by the Royal Mail, 1 in 6 UK online retailers are looking to set up physical stores in the next 12 months – so could this be the breath of life the high street has been waiting for?

eBay shoppable windows

40% of UK online retailers are looking to trade via other channels in 2014, in order to increase sales, in what is shaping up to be a bit of a global trend. Ebay, Amazon and Google have all dipped their toes into the pool of physical retail, eBay opened their first pop-up store in Soho, London at the end of 2011  – with plans to make a more definitive push afoot this year.

Online creativity

Co-founder of retail consultancy Missouri, Stuart Wood suggests that this trend could lead to more creativity in high street retail design:

“Because of their ingenuity, online retailers have done a great job of reaching their consumers online, and I think we’ll see a big rise in retailers being innovative in the offline world.”

Blurring category lines

Ibrahim Ibrahim, managing director of Portland, told Design Week:

“When you shop online it’s less about category silos, it’s about hybridisation and cross-blurring of category lines and that will migrate in-store. An online brand is different from one day to the next and they’ll have to deliver that in-store as well.”

So what do you think? Are the online giants going to save the High Street? People will always want to see and try before they buy or have instant access to goods (rather than waiting for the postman) so perhaps this could be the good news the UK high streets have been waiting for….we’ll be looking to see how this one unfolds with great interest –  but it does seem like very positive news for the new year…and a great time to be working in international and innovative retail design…


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