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Death of the high street?  What can businesses do to survive?

This week Marks and Spencer announced plans to close 100 stores by 2020 and became the latest in a long line of high street giants to announce store closures.  What then can smaller businesses do to remain on the high street?

Help is at hand

In last week’s Budget, the Government promised to support UK high streets and published ‘Our Plan for the High Street’. The plan aims to adapt to the growth of online shopping by facilitating a sustainable, long-term transformation of the high street through:

  • cutting bills by one third for retail properties with a value below £50,000;
  • a £675m Future High Streets Fund; and
  • establishing a High Street Task Force to support and strengthen local communities.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) are also offering help.  They are currently on a mission to raise awareness of the health implications of the recent store closures and have released a campaign offering practical guidance and recommendations for those who want to make their high streets more health-promoting.

Like many others, the RSPH have noted that UK high streets are now often full of empty shop-fronts, payday lenders, vape shops and fast food outlets, all of which have had a negative impact on health and wellbeing.

Adapt your existing business

2018 has not been all bad news for physical stores, with giants such as Zara, Disney and Lush all showing that values, branding and agility are key to maintaining that high street presence.

To strengthen their physical position on the high street, smaller businesses can learn from these leaders and focus on small values that can make a big difference:

  • Knowing your customers: Zara have taken charge by being agile and knowing what customers want. They learn who their customers are, what they want and then give it to them. They aren’t afraid to adapt if needs be.
  • Stick to your values: Lush have thrived in the tough market by sticking to their values and principles. They focus marketing on social issues that are prominent in society and important to them and their success.
  • Branding is everything: Disney is a brand everyone connects with; they ensure staff know the brand inside out and pass that passion onto every customer.
Take more dramatic action

It may be that the business is already under financial stress.  If so, it might be sensible to restructure the business to help adjust to changing markets. Research shows that companies with strong structure and design are four times more likely to achieve sustained, profitable growth and as such, a restructure in times of change could be the push your business needs. Other solutions are available including:

  • a quick-fix management change; or
  • refinancing,

both of which could provide the business with greater flexibility. Despite restructure being a drastic approach,  the benefits of the change of strategy during a restructure could allow the business to grow and also expand geographically (or virtually) and avoid it becoming a further high street casualty.

Seize an opportunity

With well-known restaurant chains such as Jamie’s Italian and Byron contracting, new enterprises are popping up in their place on some high streets, offering different experiences.  For example, there has been a rise of crazy golf venues, social shopping and ‘brunching’ establishments all designed to persuade the customer to stay longer and spend more.

Finally

It is clear that the retail industry is currently in a state of increased change and having to adapt to new threats. There is of course continued governmental support but businesses should not shy away from making important decisions now in order to protect their future.

If you need advice regarding a restructure, refinancing or have a business idea which could see you open up a new business, please do not hesitate to  Olivia French on 020 7288 4778 or by email at OliviaFrench@boltburdon.co.uk.  Alternatively please contact another member of the team who would be happy to help.

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