Martyn Evans shows how digital disruption can pump new life into fading high streets
I’ve been thinking a lot about retail lately. At Dartington we have a small collection of 25 shops, developed over the last 70 years around an old farmstead. Our rural mall employs 75 people from the local area and is an important focus for tourism. We’ve under-invested in recent years and relied too much on “what sells” in times when trading has been tough. When you add this to the changes in the way shoppers want to use bricks-and-mortar outlets, we have a retail business very much in need of a refocus.
And we’re not alone. For a number of years, the death of the high street generally has been widely predicted. The growth of out-of-town shopping centres and supermarkets was supposed to have done for town centres, with shopping online finishing the whole lot off. But Saturday mornings in Exeter, an important regional shopping hub, are busy with shoppers who, it seems, don’t want to let go of the experience of shopping in a city centre. The answer, of course, has to be how those city centres stay relevant and offer customers something different and more attractive than bland malls and a computer screen – diversity, delight and constant change.
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