Our high streets have changed drastically over the last few months. As shops close and lockdowns are enacted, town and city centres are becoming empty, leading businesses to struggle. However, many stores are adapting quickly to operate around the current situation. Online orders are being taken, delivery services are being developed, vouchers for future sales are being exchanged, and video stream events and classes are being scheduled. While the population is keeping their social distance, businesses are getting creative in order to survive.
In addition to this, the UK government has put measures in place in order to support business owners through this period of uncertainty. This has been enacted to ensure that, after COVID-19 is resolved, our economy can recover. One interesting question is that, once the general public can return to our regular shopping habits and open our shop doors again, what will the high street look like?
For many businesses and customers, shopping online was already a regular occurrence. For others, the transition to shopping digitally was relatively easy. Businesses big and small have websites and often online stores too. The internet has posed a challenge to brick and mortar stores for over twenty years, with certain digital retail giants being prophesied to close small and traditional stores for good. However, this isn’t how the retail environment has played out.
Instead, the high street adapted. Bookstores remain open and popular, greeting card units continue to be found in shops despite rivalling e-cards, and small businesses, including new concepts such as plastic-free shops, are appearing more often. While our high streets may have changed, they have not disappeared. It seems likely that, after the Coronavirus pandemic, they will adapt again.
Return of Our High Street
It may be the case that, once free to spend time outside, shopping will be more cherished than ever. The value of shared spaces and physical interaction with products will become more preferable than that of ordering through a digital checkout. The experience of being immersed in a brand or chatting to experienced staff will be appreciated. Bookstores have been resilient to change for these exact reasons. Booksellers share their passion and host events in store, such as book clubs and author signings, bring the community together in a place they relax, peruse, and shop.
During the pandemic, there has also been a huge push to support local and independent businesses. Alongside this rally for their survival, they have seen a rise in popularity due to supermarket mayhem. Wanting to avoid the crowds of major supermarkets, customers have turned to buy from alternative sources who remain well-stocked among the periods of panic-buying.
While some businesses will take time to ascertain how to approach their stores post-Coronavirus, there will certainly be a demand for their presence. If the challenge of internet shopping has proven anything, it is that shopping on our high street is an activity that cannot be shaken. Customers enjoy physical stores in social areas, browsing new and interesting products without the restriction of a computer screen. They may turn out to be much different than before, but our high streets will still be around.