Honey, I Shrunk the High Street!Daniel Pountney
Whoa, where did all the retailers go..?
It all seemed to start when Geoffrey the Giraffe decided to wind his long neck in and shut Toys ‘R Us for good. Christmas TV adverts will never be the same again.
Then Maplin decided that their (slightly odd) mix of PC peripherals, drones and DJ equipment also no longer had a place on the High Street…
Next was Countrywide, whose range of waxed coats, walking poles and numnahs (the thing that goes under a horse’s saddle) vanished from sight.
Add in the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Kleeneze and Betterware among others, and we are suddenly left with a lot less retail choice than we had prior to March of this year.
Geoffery the Giraffe – source: http://www.cbc.ca/comedy/op-ed-what-is-to-become-of-me-geoffrey-the-giraffe-1.4358327
There isn’t one cut and dry answer for it – tough trading environments certainly contributed… But taking a very simple view:
All the retailers listed above offered very extensive ranges of one sort of product.
Toys R Us – sold perhaps the most comprehensive range of toys and games available… Want a Star Wars Buckaroo? You’ve got it. Carry On Ker-Plunk? Yours. BMX-injury rehabilitation Action Man with qualified physio sidekick? Don’t be silly.
Maplin – loads and loads of wires and electrical gizmos. Want to connect your coffee machine to an IFTTT enabled smart plug so that it can make you a flat white when you pull up on your drive between the hours of 5-7pm? Er okay. Want to connect your surround sound to your TV and not just your DVD player? IMPOSSIBLE.
Countrywide – Horsey stuff. For horsey people.
It now seems that even the likes of Debenhams and House of Fraser are struggling with the trading environment, but I suspect these will weather the storm and put the onus on suppliers to work with them on more favorable commercial terms i.e. concession or drop shipping. It should be noted, however, that high wage bills and business rates are really hurting their ability to be competitive and deliver the sorts of growth that the shareholders are looking for.
But what this has highlighted to me, is that there is simply less and less space in the market for specialist retailers. Consumers seem to be flocking in their droves to the likes of Amazon – whose Q4 2017 revenue was up 30% on last year topping $60.5bn for the festive quarter.
It’s fair to call Amazon a ‘Jack of all trades’ – but they’re anything but a master of none! In fact, they seem to have mastered everything, perhaps with the exception of clothing. Amazon simply keep it simple, stupid!
It’s very hard to say – the world continues to innovate and technology brings arm’s length e-commerce giants closer and closer to their customers. Same day deliveries are now prevalent in bigger cities and drone deliveries promise to make orders almost instantaneous.
I am optimistic, however, and do foresee a high street in the future – though, don’t expect too many specialist retailers to remain – consumers will flock online to get the cable they need, or indeed the winter coat for their horse. There will very likely be other significant ‘masters of one trade’ in trouble over the coming years as major e-commerce players like Amazon and Asos continue to explore new and innovative ways of connecting with their customers.