A record of 48 store closures per day highlights just how acutely the high street has been hit by the pandemic, from lockdowns, to consumer caution, to supply chain disruption.
Physical high street stores have felt the impacts of the last year even more than their digital peers due to their exposure to all the costs of store upkeep and generally being less flexible to adapt to shifting consumer behaviours.
The future of the high street lies in connected retail approaches, where physical stores complement an online offering, versus the other way around. Now that consumers are more comfortable ordering online and picking up in person, many brick and mortar stores would serve best as micro fulfilment centres or appointment-only platforms centring the customer service experience (whether that’s via virtual consultations or in-person post-lockdown).
The high street hasn’t lost its status as a destination, but consumers’ pandemic-induced desires to “get in and get out” quickly will have to be indulged by tech-assisted, convenience-oriented purchase experiences.