The answer to that must include a customer perspective. In Part 1, I referred to the ‘High St’ Revitalisation Project I designed and work on – which has clearly identified consumers have changed; the way we ‘consume’ is changing.
Some of the research behind that finding, by the way, has come from my reviewing academic and international market research and the rest comes from direct consumer questioning carried out within the project locality itself.
It’s essential to remember that the changes to retail businesses have, not insignificantly, resulted from the shake-up consumers have experienced in their own lifestyle patterns. The GFC (and its persistent after-shocks) didn’t just cause economic downturn, it exposed ‘bad’ behaviour that’s seriously damaged millions of people. There’s been the turmoil of a ‘roll-on’ of natural disasters. There are power shifts changing the balance of international economies and creating instability in national currencies; and so on and so forth.
Within all that change, consumers are re-evaluating their priorities and lifestyle decisions. They’re taking a fresh look at the value systems they’ve previously held in, all but, biblical esteem:
The all-consuming accumulation of wealth (dare we say greed) is no longer looking so good & ‘affluence’ isn’t so “cool”, anymore.
Social good matters. That said; how, what, where, when - we’re still working out.
Personal needs – “me, me, me” isn’t so interesting – our sense of belonging, community, sharing, collaborating, is in come-back.
This widespread values and lifestyle review is rejuvenating a desire for “Village-life”; but the appeal is not “shop till you drop”, it’s a search for social belonging, feeling socially engaged and sharing ‘common space’.
People are also craving convenience, which results from escalating transport costs, the limitations of time-poor schedules and a shrinking fascination with ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Convenience includes ‘local’ and it means basic ‘everyday’ convenience.
So here’s the opportunity: the local village hub, or ‘High St’, MAY be able to satisfy all of this new consumer ambition IF the local ‘High St’ business community responds to these changing needs.
That response must, of course, include – affordability. Research also identifies a distinguishing point of appeal of ‘High Sts’ over shopping malls: that is, where a good village hub features unique, quirky, arty, ‘character-filled’ ‘High St’ retail outlets, it can offer an interesting shopping experience which enriches people’s enjoyment of local ‘Village Life’.
So, for individual retail owners the ‘take-home’ messages seem to be:
- highlight the special interest your products can appeal to, e.g. books, kids, markets, food, unique fashion
- angle your products/service to everyday convenience
- think up new ways to add to convenience e.g. delivery/online
- make the business sociable – enhancing a local customer’s ‘belonging’ to their community/village
- be entertaining – make your store an ‘experience’: touch people’s special interests
- keep some things AFFORDABLE, offering premium quality is a delicate mix to get right these days
- INCLUDE your customers, in clever ways, as you design responses to the above – never forget it’s about them
- become an INTERACTIVE business – changing, adaptable, creative, fluid
Discovering ‘the tricks of the new trade’ and sharing the latest know-how is how the retail sector will ‘reboot’.
Do these findings ‘fit’ with how retail store owners’, suppliers, or customers are experiencing the trading ‘climate’ out there? What other features have worked? Add your comments to the discussion and let’s keep enriching the shared know-how.
[The final part (3) of this blog will conclude with a review of the where-to-from-here findings of the ‘High St’ Revitalisation Project. We’ll discuss ‘the new tools of the trade’: how ‘social’ can be the new way-to-go; not just for consumers but for business owners, too. And – how collaboration as a business community can add that all important ‘Ummph’.]
[This blog was first published on the Australian Gifts and Homewares Association blog site]