In 2017, the Scottish high street faced fresh challenges as it struggled to fight the tide of closures. The last year has seen over 290 stores close – the highest number in recent years.
A similar story could be heard around the UK. Across the country, an estimated 5,855 stores went out of business. The closures were not solely independent traders, but the likes of Toys R Us, Claire’s Accessories, House of Fraser and New Look faced financial pressure to shut some of their shops to ease the cash flow burden. The high-profile closures only served to highlight the worries for the high street. More and more consumers are continuing to flock online for their needs, leaving traditional stored recording substantial profit losses.
All is not lost, however, as Scotland saw 142 stores open and attempt to fight the rising closures. One such example is Time & Tide.
Launched in 2009, Time & Tide have expanded over the years and have gone on to open seven stores in Scotland. The retailer boasts shops in Peebles, North Berwick, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Their online store also offers an experience replicating that of their physical locations.
Most recently, in November 2017, Time & Tide opted to open another store, in St George’s Cross – the main furniture and furnishings district in Glasgow. Despite the increasing tide of closures, the company launched the store to wonderful results. Boasting three times more space than their other stores, the new Glasgow destination is designed to satisfy their customers demand for unique furniture and home decor.
Jasmyn Hunter, E-commerce and Marketing Manager, said: ““We saw a great space available, which is now the site of our St Georges Place store, which we felt would allow us not only to display our interior product, but to create an inspiring interior setting with the drama to justify the building and location. We already have a large following and loyal customer base in the West End of Glasgow due to our Byres Road site and, as such, the new venture allowed us to capitalise and build on these existing relationships.”
While many brands are turning online, Time & Tide is part of a new wave of retailers. Scotland may have had the highest number of disused retail units in the UK, but we’re seeing the beginnings of investment in traditional shopping.
The negative headlines hide the opportunities for retailer looking to expand their reach. The fall of the high street may just stop if companies implement structural changes, and offer an experience where online cannot compete. Time & Tide has embraced this new approach with their latest store, providing a welcome and cosy ‘home’ for shoppers to relax and take their time perusing the products.
Jasmyn said: “We still believe that, particularly on interior products, plenty of people still want to see, experience and be inspired by a physical store location where they can interact with product and person. However, it would be incorrect to assume that this is the only means to trade. The real war on the high street is finding the balance of bricks and clicks and being proactive and open to the changing environment. This, for us, means servicing all of our customers in the location which is most convenient for them – be it in one of our beautiful stores or the comfort of their home.”
For those brands that are willing to provide an experience, rather than ‘just a shop’, the rewards may be surprising. Those that cannot match the offering from online retailers will not survive the changes. We live in a digital world, but consumers still enjoy the feel and the excitement surrounding traditional shopping.
Brands should work to ensure consistency between online and offline. Another option is to work with influencers targeting your demographic with discounts to gain more footfall. Similarly, put your store on social media and show the benefits of visiting the actual location. The combination of modern and traditional is the future and may just help your business fight the high street challenges.