A new cross-industry coalition has been launched to revitalise Britain’s High Streets.
The alliance comprises the MyHigh.St website, bira (British Independent Retailers Association) and Rakuten’s Play.com, working with Action for Market Towns and the Association of Town and City Management.
The coalition – called target200 – is launching an ecommerce network that gives independent shopkeepers the chance to sell their products online, whilst driving in-store footfall. It also gives towns a platform to showcase their High Streets for the first time.
Bira said that across the country, independent retailers report that they are struggling to compete with major internet retailers as, on their own, the indies generally lack the funds to launch costly websites and large-scale online marketing campaigns.
The MyHigh.St website allows shoppers to visit their local High Street whatever the weather, any time of the day or night, via their PC, tablet, or mobile phone.
The combination of ecommerce and a High Street showcase, coupled with “click and collect” and an independent shops’ loyalty programme, enables shoppers to buy online, whilst encouraging visits in person.
At the coalition’s launch in Westminster last month, a new report from MyHigh.St and their partners was launched that shows that a third (32%) of people do not believe their High Street has a future, with half saying that they are not proud of their local High Street.
The report, entitled ‘A Nation of Shopkeepers’, also reveals that with more people shopping online, four in ten are scared of losing their High Street, with the figure rising to 49% among women.
The findings, conducted by ICM and based on a poll of 2,000 people, also found that: four in 10 respondents think there is a lack of originality in the products that chain stores sell, a third believe the staff in chain stores are often unfriendly, and that there is overcrowding on the shop floor, and almost a third are more likely to shop in small, independent stores in the wake of stories about large businesses avoiding paying corporation tax. Two-thirds want a High Street which has a good mix of independent and chain stores.
Loaye Agabani, co-founder of MyHigh.St, said: “After numerous reviews, reports and pilots programmes, it’s time for action. Our website empowers independent retailers to fight back against the rise of online shopping from faceless warehouses, showing them that the internet, when used effectively, can boost their business and get money flowing back into their tills.”
Bira chief executive Alan Hawkins commented: “Traditional independent shops are digging deep to hold their position, with a marginal growth in numbers in the first half of this year. But we fear this is not sustainable in the face of the growing challenges they face.
“A showcase to celebrate our towns as digital and real-life shopping destinations, empowering retailers to embrace ecommerce and secure their share of this growing economy, explains why 200 retailers have already signed up. This service is good for shoppers, good for retailers and good for communities.”
Bira national president Michael Hughes added: “As an independent retailer, going online through the MyHigh.St marketplace has given us a cost-effective and very straightforward way of raising our online presence and becoming transactional online at the same time – allowing us to have an online presence without any capital outlay.
“This is really important for independent retailers and will help us raise our profile and get our products and brand in front of consumers in a new way. I believe that with the expertise that the MyHigh.St team bring to the mix, the marketplace will really work for independent retailers.”