How technology and local communities can help grow the UK’s high streets
It’s a well-known fact that the British high street is struggling. Following the government’s decision to change how business rates are calculated, as announced in this week’s Budget, businesses will save money on business rates but many feel that more can still be done.
Recently we have seen positive headline such as a BBC article reporting that there are “Fewer High Street Shops Closing Down”, but when you dig a little deeper, the picture is far less optimistic. Only two of the 11 British regions showed net gains, and they were not exactly large. The combined gains of the ‘positive growth regions,’ Yorkshire and Humber, and the East Midlands, was a growth of 20 individual high street retailers and businesses.
Things look worse still when you glance over UK spending habits, Reuters wrote just last week about retails sales recording their first year-on-year decline since 2013 in October as consumers face rising prices and stagnant wages. The pound has been hit and inflation has risen, meaning sales volumes in the three months to October were just 1.1 percent higher than the year before, the weakest growth rate since 2013.
It is worth taking note that this was not as bad as predicted, but still not ideal. All in all, there are tough and unpredictable times ahead for the UK high street and it is time for a rethink.
Local shops, restaurants and bars are slowly but steadily taking one hit after another and we must, if we want to keep the town centres the idyllic places they are, work together to keep them alive. Initiatives like Small Business Saturday, which this year falls on 2nd December, are helping focus the public’s attention on the need to support their high streets and are encouraging small businesses to stand up for themselves.
At Preoday we have started to drive forward on a new path, by taking the individual businesses and venues and creating something of an online retail and restaurant network. A few weeks ago we helped launch Oxford Orders – an ecosystem in Oxford allowing shops, bars and restaurants of all sizes to build a community around the city. Oxford Orders is one centralised service on both web and dedicated mobile apps for everyone to advertise their service and facilitate preorders. It is like click and collect for Argos or Starbucks, but at some of our favourite local places, enabling a level playing field. From 1885 to The Old Tom, technology will mean no queue times for that first drink or speedy collection of food on the way home from work. Everything is made faster and easier.
Community in the UK is still so special in our towns and cities and looking forward, we hope to work on similar networks up and down the country to bring services like this to you. If you would like to find out more about launching a local network in your area, we’d love to hear from you.