With the fantastic news this week of a roadmap out of the lockdown, how will our High Street look when we come out?
In the seaside town of Worthing, where EW is based, the closing down signs were going up at Debenhams, Topshop, Edinburgh Mill, before the third lockdown. We know more smaller businesses will not return but there are some green shoots of hope for our unique independent shop, which is in one of the most severely impacted sectors.
Not surprisingly, in the UK last year total consumer spending fell 7.1%, with non-essential spending down 11.3% - but with the support schemes the government has put in place, and those businesses that have adapted and responded to the changing circumstances there is a great deal to be optimistic about again. We have worked so hard to stay in the game and we’re so excited to be a part of Worthing’s retail future.
Even before lockdown there was a shift to enhancing the shopping experience – we are determined to ride the storm and looking forward to providing a personalised service - we want our lovely customers to be physically present, back in the town centre not Bluewater shopping centre! The Independents are going to lead the way.
The decline of the British high street has been a hot topic of conversation in recent years, with many bricks and mortar stores closing due to the rise of online shopping. But, at Emporium Worthing, we believe the high street is going to evolve, rather than die. While it may seem as though there has been a gigantic shift towards online shopping, especially during lockdown, a recent survey found that 85% of consumers still prefer to shop in-store but do usually research products online beforehand.
Emporium Worthing was one of 50 new shops that opened in the town last year. Excited and full of hope, we opened a year ago, nine days before the first lockdown. We have not known anything different and have put the closure time to good use. We have built up an attractive website and offered click and collect, a service we will continue for those nervous about coming out and about again We recognise the growth of internet shopping and work constantly to have an interesting, informative and easy to use website for those who like the convenience.
Despite pushing the online side forward, our shop on Warwick Street will always be the hub of the business. We cannot wait to welcome people back in. We miss the contact, the buzz of people, the delight when they find something different and affordable to take home. We will be revisiting our scuppered plans to host small bubble/bubbly parties where a group of friends or family can take over the shop, have a glass or two of cava and a cupcake, try clothes on, buy a flock candelabra or a nourishing face serum.
We will get together with our neighbouring shops and eateries and have organised events – oh, what a great thought – Let’s hope the sun will shine down on us for summer celebrations, we’ll be out for the Halloween fairs, and we plan to make Christmas merrier on Warwick Street this year!
One day we will again see the concerts in local parks, markets returning, and tourists curious to sample the local wares.
Stay strong, support your local shops as well as buying their goods online – there’s plenty of life left in the old High Street yet – it might just look a little different.