If Britain’s on-line sector is growing 57 times faster than the economy as a whole*, is it the end for the High Street?
As signmakers, we have a vested interest in the continuation of attractive, individual, well-designed shops with their fascias, pavement A boards, hanging signs and promotional boards, all needing our craft and expertise. So we are watching the changes in local high streets with some anxiety.
* SHOP LOCAL?
Personally and professionally, I support the Shop Local promotions; I notice the helpful knock-on benefits to other businesses, ones which support and service the bakers, makers, artisans and independents.
A big bank tech spokesperson blames “queues” for the shift to on-line shopping … locally we might cite PARKING CHARGES … and, dare I say, shop-keepers who forget the SERVICE element of helping shoppers.
But it is obvious that smartphones – hunting out mobile shopping sites and using apps – are boosting the move towards “virtual” shopping.
* NO SHOPS NEEDED?
And it is smartphones which could take us to a future which has already arrived in Asia: in 2011 Tesco launched the world’s first virtual store. The shop is a wall of QR codes – ready to be scanned by smartphones, with the products delivered. No building, no staff, no moving goods around!
No out-of-town superstore and fewer environmentally detrimental lorry journeys might suit anti-big-store campaigners. But how many fewer jobs too!
* QR CODES
Developing the smartphone/QR code trend, some chains are using, for example, virtual butterfly coupons, which shoppers catch with their phones and redeem in store.
The phone, backed by strong engagement in social networking, is the link between shop and shoppers. I wonder if local shops can learn a lesson from this?
* TECHNOLOGICAL APATHY
I fear not. We’ve promoted QR codes to local businesses for several years but we do get resistance: for example, no estate agent has taken up our offer to add individual codes to sale board signs – how cool would it be to see inside the house while standing outside??
So I issue a challenge to the High Street: make new technology work for you, before apathy takes over and we all roll over and accept the end of the human element in shopping!
What do you think? How can the High Street fight back? Share with your friends and see what we can do.
(*The Independent Business, 22nd April 2013)