December 9 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 20, 2013
Traditional high street shops need to step into the on-line world to survive and thrive, says a retail guru visiting a north Norfolk town.
Cromer is part of a growing “virtual high street” scheme, which combines the service values of independent shops, with the website-driven needs of the modern day shopper.
The founder of My High.St, Louis Agabani, dropped into the town ahead of a relaunch of the national website, where Cromer is one of the featured member towns.
Mr Agabani has 20 years experience in retail, from running a market stall to his present toy shop at Wells in Somerset.
He wanted to expand his business and realised the internet was an important part of moving forward - but realised it would be more powerful, and easier for hard-pressed small retailers - to have them working together. My High St was founded there in August 2012 with 30 shops and now has 170 on its books.
“Small family-run shops are often so engrossed in our own day-to-day business it is easy to lose touch with how shoppers are shopping,” said Mr Agabani.
“Thirty years ago it was a retailers’ market, driven by the shops. Now it is a buyers’ market with customers able to access products and services globally - and everyone is well-informed.”
Online business was only 10pc of retail sales but it was growing rapidly.
Small shops could avoid the trend of people viewing products in the high street before going off to buy them on line by “opening up a discussion with customers and being prepared to bargain.”
Mr Agabani said there was a trend of people drifting away from the bigger malls - because of the expense of getting there and danger of spending a lot. Customers were favouring a trip to local shops.
The My High St scheme provided a shop window so people could browse what a town had to offer, buy online and collect - as well as “keep up a relationship” afterwards.
Mr Agabani said Cromer’s good mix of small shops was down to the lack of any large units to attract the chain stores.
Around 17 shops, about 25pc, were signed up but he was looking to increase that with an autumn push of the scheme launched in Cromer during the summer. Mr Agabani, and Barry Meadows from the local scheme, met with district council officials to explain the scheme, which could have benefits for other towns.
The October revamp of the site would be “more user-friendly and more woman-friendly” as 80pc of online shoppers were female.
The top buying time was 8pm as people “dual screened” - browsing on their tablet computers and smart phones while watching evening TV, often inspired by adverts to explore a product.
To find out more about the scheme, and what Cromer has to offer, visit www.myhigh.st