What Happened to the Customer always being right?

In the last few months we have heard of a number High Street chains struggling to cope and going into administration. Unfortunately, it is becoming the norm for us to walk along our High Street seeing empty units on the increase. Where there was once the hustle and bustle of diners and shoppers, now there are sad, empty shops with boarded up windows and uncollected post piling up.

Just in the last 2 months we have heard of the loss of the institution of House of Fraser, Coast going into administration and Mothercare in trouble. This week, the once much-loved Clare’s Accessories is apparently failing in being able to provide the consumer the right experience and is moving closer to administration by the day.

So, what does this mean for us as workers, consumers and wearers of fashion? Why are we ditching the shops and restaurants and what reflection does this have on us? Can we really blame the failure of the High Street purely on the fact that more people are shopping online now? I personally do not believe that this is the case.

While there is some element of truth in the fact that the likes of Amazon, online deliveries and Supermarket deliveries have made online shopping easier and have allowed us as consumers to create an “order today and receive tomorrow” culture, the idea that this is the only thing that has driven us out of our High Streets is quite frustrating.

We are living in a culture where we want ease and speed in everything we do. We have changed as consumers. Where we used to pick up an onion, peel it and chop it ourselves we can now walk into any supermarket where the onion is already chopped and peeled ready for use. The fact that this way of buying an onion is more expensive and really is the epitome of laziness is irrelevant – it is what the consumers want. It was said best by George Jessel- you give the people what they want, and they’ll come.”

My message to Retailers is this; if you want to thrive, you need to take a good hard look at how to survive in the High Streets. I hear often about Oxford Street but let’s look at our local High Streets and why we are not shopping there!

Retailers need to look at the reason why shops which sell disposable clothes are a beacon to shoppers who are struggling at this time of continued austerity. At Coast for example, the cost of a top, which perhaps only be worn once or twice, is ludicrous. You only have to look at the array of offerings in charity shops to see how we as shoppers are becoming so disposable in our thoughts – if Tinder and Love Island have taught me anything then it is that! Nothing is for life, definitely not a £150 top, when I can get a similar top for £20 in Primark!

However, this is not my advice to retailers, but it is about the way in which we now shop. Many of us do not live in the city (although sometimes this is forgotten by the media). For those of us who may commute, the only thing we feel like doing on a Monday night is to get out of London and on a train home. If I am lucky enough to get a seat, then I might do some internet shopping, but my question to retailers is why you are not thinking of your customers and being open till later? I would have no problem in rummaging down your clothing aisles after work if you were open! You do not seem to be adapting your ways of working to our ways of working and shopping.

As an avid shopper, I would prefer to try on my new outfit before I buy, but the fact that on my local High Street the shops are closed at 5:30pm when I finish work does not give me any time to shop in my local Karen Millen. Therefore, I don’t. Why do Retailers not see the need of ease for their consumers?

Retailers need to realise that that they can have smaller footprints to showcase their products and allow people to get the look and feel of their merchandise – but accept that customers will then probably order on line. The key will be having a website that people will go to because they want to order from there; and a product that customers cannot get from Amazon!

It’s not all just up to the retailers. My question for Government – particularly ahead of the budget – is why do we not take a look at Business Rates and provide light relief to our failing shops? If large chains like House of Fraser and Debenhams are struggling, what, then, is happening to our independent shops?

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