Supporting local businesses is one of the most important reasons to shop on high streets in the Midlands, according to a recent survey conducted by retail PR firm Cartwright Communications.
The survey, which aimed to gather data about the shopping habits of residents in Birmingham, Derby, Leicester, Lincoln and Nottingham, found that 63% of all respondents consider it highly important to support local businesses and independent retailers.
At a time when empty shop fronts are on the rise and online retailers continue to grow, it is often reported that city centres are struggling to attract the footfall needed to remain profitable in the current climate.
However, recent findings suggest that the desire to support independent retailers and small businesses is driving footfall to the high street and encouraging residents to shop in store, buy locally and receive customer service in person.
Nelson Blackley, retail research associate at Nottingham Trent University, said: “The survey confirms that over 70% of respondents visit their local high street, which is good news for their continued survival and suggests that physical stores and the high street still serve a purpose.
“The responses also show that most consumers are keen to support local businesses, which is great for local independent retailers trading on our high streets and in our town centres. There is real demand for those products, services and experiences that consumers just can’t get online.”
Yet results also show that - despite this support - there is a greater demand for leisure facilities on the high street that precedes retail units. Bars and restaurants, coffee shops and cafes, hairdressers and beauty salons all ranked above retailers as the reason people visit their local high street, proving that services and experiences are starting to overtake the traditional retail focus of city centres.
Previously a firm favourite, fashion retailers now rank fourth in popularity. While this may correlate directly with the rise in fast fashion websites, 39% of responses stated that in-store retailers do not do enough to entice shoppers to the high street. Amidst the rising demand for leisure experiences, there is a call for retailers to improve experiential shopping and do more to encourage shopping behaviours to return to the high street.
Liz Cartwright, managing director at Cartwright Communications, said: “We’ve gained some truly fascinating insight from the survey. It’s interesting to see that fashion retailers are on the decline in terms of attracting people to local high streets and that the needs of shoppers are shifting. No longer are people visiting city centres to purchase products, but rather as a social pastime.”
The survey also asked what people would like to see more of on the high street, with answers ranging from free parking and a stronger police presence, to more pedestrianisation and boutiques.
Liz continued: “We had a wide range of responses for what people would like to see more of, which shows that there is still work to be done in terms of master planning in city centres. One of the answers that did stand out was the demand for more banks and post offices. This shows that, despite recent closures around the country, these amenities have always traditionally brought people to the high street and it seems this is still the case.”