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Is high street retail dying?

 

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The rise of online shopping and the high costs of running a bricks-and-mortar store beg the question: is high street retail dying?

I spoke to an online retailer this week who likened selling on an ecommerce marketplace to being in a shopping centre. If you were a retailer on a high street, he said, it’s logical you would want to be in a big centre. You pay more for the privilege but in return get exposure to a large audience.

Personally, I love shopping in independent stores and on local shopping strips, but there’s no denying that shopping online or in a large centre is convenient. But is our obsession with convenience killing our high street retail culture?

Possibly, according to an Ipsos Global Advisor study of shopping behaviours in 24 countries. A survey of over 1,000 Australians found we are increasingly shifting to digital and convenience-focused shopping alternatives, which is reflected in the types of retailers we see on our streets.

Consumers reported seeing fewer traditional ‘main street’ businesses and more chain stores. In Australia, the type of stores most markedly vanishing from local shopping areas are bookstores (seen less often by 48 per cent of Australians compared to 39 per cent globally), newsstands (41 per cent) and any type of independently-owned and operated (non-chain) stores (35 per cent).

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In contrast, we are reporting seeing more or just as many chemists (75 per cent saw more or just as many), eat-in restaurants (69 per cent), cafes (67 per cent, with more increase noticed in Australia than globally), and stores or restaurants selling readily prepared or takeaway food (66 per cent).

Ipsos found we are also seeing more vacant shops, possibly because a greater percentage of Australians are shopping more online than in-store.

I know that high rents, energy costs and wages are combining to cripple many independent retailers, who struggle to remain competitive against chain stores and the ecommerce market, but I hope the #ShopSmall movement will inject some positivity into the local shopping strip this Christmas and give the smaller guys a much-needed boost. Independent retailers are often at the heart of a community, and if we lose them, we risk losing something special.

 

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