Bill Grimsey: Action required to prevent town centres becoming ghost towns

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It has been reported that former retail chief Bill Grimsey, who has just launched his second report into the future of town centres and High Streets, has warned Britain’s town centres are “in big danger of becoming ghost towns in the future” if immediate action is not taken.

However, with the right response to this challenge, and more attractions are put in place for visitors to town centres, this presents an opportunity for retailers.

Fujitsu EMEIA digital lead retail Jat Sahi commented: “The various closures and cutbacks that have dogged the high street lately demonstrate how retailers need to rethink their brick-and-mortar presence in the age of ecommerce. Consumers have become accustomed to the seamless convenience of shopping online, and this latest report underlines how some retailers have been unable to match that experience in-store.

“Designing town centres as community hubs could actually prove positive for retailers, as having such attractions nearer stores would very likely keep a retailer front-of-mind for consumers and make them more likely to be visited. Retailers will however need to prove their value if they are to compete with more varied tenants for their shop space. This will require them to maximise their retail space to create an easy and delightful experience for customers. Deploying technology in smart ways offers a means to do this – according to our own research, four-in-five Brits would spend more in a shop with a better technology experience. Despite this, only half of retailers have a digital strategy to implement the kind of technologies that could boost the browsing and shopping journey.

“If cities and towns do take up these recommendations, it will be absolutely vital for those still on the high street to maximise their already reduced presence. But regardless of this, with consumer confidence trending downward, competition is fierce and both customer loyalty and shopping experience are weighing in. If they can avoid being the next generation of retailers to be pushed out of the high street for good, by deploying technology in a visionary manner they could be looking forward to consumers being physically much nearer to them which could be a renaissance for the high street.”

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