It’s been an unbelievably challenging two years for high street businesses, and while this Spring has brought some feelings of relief, there are still many peaks and troughs to navigate. But while our high street businesses continue to face unprecedented challenges, they’ve also gained a new significance for shoppers and their local community.
Sally Pepper, business information officer at Business Sheffield said: “Before COVID-19, the retail landscape was already shifting with the loss of many retail giants. The pandemic threw a curveball into the mix, accelerating our use of online shopping but with a spin towards local high streets and independents as we were forced to shop locally.
“I’ve always believed that independent retailers would play a large part in redefining the retail landscape and I think in part that is now coming true. Many more people are shopping locally and have discovered businesses they didn’t know about.
“This shift poses challenges for businesses when planning as all previous patterns of customer behaviour have disappeared. As a result, their opening hours, operating models and even their team may be changing too.
“For this reason, it’s even more important right now for businesses to review the journey the customers make when interacting with them. How do customers find you? What do they see, read, hear, and feel at every contact point? It’s vital to clearly communicate any changes you make, keeping your customers up to date and well informed. Include them as part of your team and bring them along with you.
“It can feel isolating running a business so it’s important to have support from your business neighbours, a business network or even the local community group. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that we need connection. We need to feel part of our community, at work, at home or with friends. A high street community is no different - customers want to buy from real people and feel connected to those businesses.
“A healthy high street leads to a healthy community. I’d like to think, having discovered them, that people will continue to shop locally.”