The retail landscape is evolving thanks to the rise of several economic trends, many of which involve technological innovations. Because of new technology, there are now various ways to shop away from the high street. That’s why in 2018, industry experts predict a significant growth for retail.
Of course, the industry is not without its challenges. Last year, the UK suffered from post-Brexit inflation prices, with many traditional stores closing down as a result of pricing troubles and a weak British Pound. The UK’s high streets witnessed 5,855 store closures last year, a figure that’s risen every other year since 2010. Due to that phenomenon, 2017 is often referred to as the “retail apocalypse”.
Even so, the future of retail remains bright. Bloomberg’s report shows that 18% of retail sales happen online in Britain, which means that the battlegrounds are slowly transitioning to the digital world. Looking at it from a positive angle, the growing number of ecommerce stores provides more opportunities for established businesses to adapt and branch out. This is because despite the increasing sales growth of ecommerce businesses, there is a thin line between them and traditional retailers.
Brick and mortar stores are not just shifting to the online landscape for the sake of the trend. In reality, many businesses are currently working out a balance between existing stores and customer needs. Online retail giant Amazon, for instance, eventually ventured into its own brick and mortar store, which opened its doors earlier this year. Having a physical store allows customers to check out Amazon’s range of products, especially its devices. Other stores are stepping up with their game with AR or VR services, as well as mobile payment options, which also serve to heighten consumer experience. Innovations like those are proof that the brick and mortar market is still in the game, and brands just need to be more creative.
This also explains today’s trend of multi-branding. Guest writer Chris Smith once pointed out the growing presence of multi-brand stores in the UK, such as the newly opened Sports Direct in Glasgow. Topshop now also houses Miss Selfridge, while The Lexicon offers items from Topshop, Topman, Burton, and Miss Selfridge. As more shoppers are becoming used to the immediacy provided by online services, a move like this from traditional stores seems appropriate. With brands grouped together in one space, it eliminates the need for shoppers to go from store to store.
Aside from the many effects of technology, there are actually other factors that will affect retail. For instance, this economic calendar laid out by FXCM reveals the volatility of different currencies, among them the British Pound. Certain events involving retail topics are predicted to drive an upward tick in the British Pound. Similarly, other events around the world may bring down the value of other currencies, further propelling the Pound and making imported goods and services more affordable for the everyday shopper.
In conclusion, all this just proves that the general consensus for retail in the UK is geared towards the positive, even with the industry’s rocky road in 2017. And although no one can predict the future with full certainty, for now however, all the signs point toward a growth for the UK retail industry.
John Patterson is a freelance writer and financial analyst with special focus on the retail sector. He has been following retail trends for more than 10 years and is currently based in London.