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August 01, 2014 - Rachel Miller

Boost for local shops as consumer habits shift

Boost for local shops as consumer habits shiftA new study into the state of British high streets has found that consumer demand for convenience is benefiting local stores and town centres.

Researchers at the University of Southampton Retail Research Group have found that “fundamental” changes to Britain’s convenience culture are transforming the way we shop and bringing new business to local and town centre shops.

According to the report, the definition of “convenience” shopping has shifted. Where once it was defined as one-stop shopping in big out-of-town developments, now it means topping up on groceries in local stores.

The report suggests that dynamic town centres are experiencing a resurgence, despite the pressures of internet shopping and out-of-town stores. It says: “Convenience retail in town centres/high streets, both independently and corporately owned, has experienced significant growth over the past 15 years, a growth sustained during the economic crisis and subsequent period of austerity.”

That trend is expected to continue over the next five years, with convenience stores accounting for a quarter of the grocery market by 2019. Over the same period, the market share for superstores is expected to fall from 42% to 35%.

According to the study, there has been a “modest resurgence” in specialist retailers such as artisanal bakers, butchers and tea and coffee merchants on high streets where independent stores stand alongside big name retailers.

The study says that the “leisure aspect of shopping trips is a significant driver of footfall” and that high streets that include a good range of cafes, bars and restaurants achieve higher average spend.

Long-term shifts towards leisure, health and beauty services – such as nail salons, hairdressers and gyms – will continue. However, consumer spending on “recession-related” retail, such as pawnbrokers and betting shops, will slow.

The report also shows that retailers are exploiting new online opportunities – particularly with the rise in click-and-collect buying. Within five years, seven out of ten online shoppers will choose to collect goods rather than risk missing a delivery at home, it says.

The report comes as the Department for Communities and Local Government and retail experts search for the best high streets in Britain. The Great British High Street competition is run by the Future High Streets Forum and the Association of Town and City Management until 30 August.

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