Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to attend a Celebrity Masterclass with retail guru Mary Portas. Mary is one of the leading retail experts in this country. She's worked for famous brands like Harrods and has been credited for reinventing Knightbridge posh department store, Harvey Nichols.
In 2007, the BBC commissioned Mary Queen of Shops. It really brought Mary Portas's skills into the public domain, as she travelled up and down the country, working with shops that had lost their way, offering advice and a strategy to help them salvage their troubled businesses.
She was also appointed by David Cameron's coalition government to report on the future of the high street. And this was one of the reasons I was keen to attend.
The short answer is no. In Mary's opinion definitely not.
However, it doesn't take a genius to realise it's purpose will have to change. Out of town retail parks, with their convenient and free parking, supermarkets that sell *literally* everything and of course The Internet has taken its toll on those on the High Street.
What will happen and is happening now, is that the high street is changing. And will have to continue to do so in order to be relevant. No longer do people "pop" to the shops to buy an item (that's what can be done on the Internet) but the high street will be there to fill the gap for a customer experience. The trend is to no longer acquire stuff but to acquire an experience. When Mary Portas worked as Creative Director at Harvey Nichols in London in the nineties, she successfully created a destination shop; Shopping at Harvey Nics became synonymous with glamour and decadence. She created a fifth floor champagne bar & what was once a dowdy, Knightsbridge Department Store, because *the* place to be seen.
I believe Sudbury is in a more fortunate position than many other small towns. Not only are we in the heart of beautiful rural Suffolk, steeped in beauty and history, that appeals to visitors and tourist, we have a passionate community that wants to get involved.
One thing that she mentioned at the start of the day, was how we, as humans, are hardwired to want and need to come together. We have this in an abundance in Sudbury. Just look at what’s happening with St Peters or the work being done to use the Delphi Centre. You only need to have visited The Taste of Sudbury to see how well supported and well organised that event is. Or the Christmas Lights Switch on Evening. Visit our regular town and Farmers Markets. I know for a fact how the Farmer's Markets themselves are their own micro community. They provide far more than simply buying your veg or your honey. They share a sense of belonging and pride of their community. The opportunities to catch up with friends, speak with the producers, bump into someone you've not seen since school, is something an online shop can never compete with.
Mary Portas shared a growing trend - a business is more likely to have successes when collaborating with other businesses, pooling together their resources to create an appealing customer experience. If you think about it, it makes sense for two businesses, not competing, but that share a similar customer - yoga classes and well-being products coming together, a barbers and men's clothes shop. The potential is huge
So, no. The High Street is not dead. And yes, there will be high street casualties, but if you can innovate, think outside the box and look at creating something that we want to experience, it's a step in the right direction.
If you'd like to have a chat with me about how being part of thebestof Sudbury could help your business, just get in touch. I'm all about bringing trusted businesses and the local community together, whilst keeping the pound in and around Sudbury.
Member since: 17th March 2014
Hello! I'm Penny from thebestof Sudbury, shouting about the best local businesses from Hadleigh through the Clare. When I'm not doing that, you'll find me knitting socks or tending to my 6 chickens