The high street fights back?

The high street’s NOT dead! As John Lewis introduces 50 new brands and M&S plans to incorporate Jaeger, experts explain why brick-and-mortar stores AREN’T ‘at deaths door’ – and why rural shops will benefit most

  • Headlines have heralded the ‘death of the high street’ after Arcadia collapse
  • But retail juggernauts John Lewis and Marks & Spencer are fighting back 
  • Today John Lewis announced it is bringing in 50 new brands, including Mango
  • M&S is preparing to roll out its new acquisition Jaeger as a ‘store within a store’ 

Headlines bemoaned the ‘death of the British high street’ after Boohoo and ASOS divvied up Sir Phillip Green’s Arcadia group – but brick-and-mortar stores still have a future, according to retail experts. 

Rural town centres are expected to enjoy a boost once lockdown eases, with new home-bound habits and a renewed sense of community driving customers to ‘shop local’ and support independent businesses.

This, combined with the closure of national chains, means the makeup of high streets will shift away from department stores and big shops towards smaller, independent outlets, experts predict.  

New life: John Lewis is introducing 50 new fashion and beauty brands, including Mango (pictured). The additions reflect a shift towards more loungewear as day wear

New home: M&S is turning its attention towards the re-launch of upmarket Jaeger, which it required last month, as a ‘store within a store’. Pictured, a store in November last year

Rima Gasperas, a commercial property solicitor at Keystone Law, told Femail: ‘Since the 2008 recession, the high street as we knew it, with big department stores and large high street names, has been changing. 

‘As we emerge out of the pandemic, high streets will consist of more independent, specialist or boutique stores, with concentration on ethics and sustainability.’ 

James Pow, senior retail advisor at business advisory firm Quantuma, agreed: ‘With more people working from home, more money will be spent locally (as well as online), allowing consumers to rediscover these local shops and changing high streets.’

Liam Patterson, CEO and founder at retail tech platform Bidnamic, predicted specialist and hobby stores will also be among the first to bounce back thanks to their dedicated customer base.

However retail juggernauts like John Lewis and M&S are making moves so they are not left behind.

John Lewis today announced it will introduce 50 new clothing and beauty brands in a bid to attract shoppers – both online and in store, once restrictions ease – including high street favourites like Mango and lesser-known names like Ninety Percent. 

Spring is coming: Dresses from two of the brands being introduced to John Lewis this year. Pictured, designs from Baujken (left) and Thought (right) 

The additions reflect a shift towards more athleisure and activewear being incorporated into daily wardrobes, explained Jo Bennet, head of womenswear at John Lewis.    

Meanwhile M&S is turning its attention towards the re-launch of upmarket Jaeger, which it required last month, as a ‘store within a store’. Yesterday it was announced retail expert Fiona Lambert will become the managing director at Jaeger,

This type of mixed shopping experience, which offers more to the customer than a straightforward purchase, will prove valuable when it comes to enticing people in store.

Liam Patterson, CEO and founder at retail tech platform Bidnamic, said: ‘Despite the headlines, the high street isn’t at death’s door. While brick and mortar retailers admittedly have been hard during the pandemic, they haven’t completely subsided.

‘Instead, retailers have cut unnecessary and costly stores and have started to rethink the physical shopping experience following the boom in ecommerce during the covid-19. Going forwards, I believe that brick and mortar stores will have to experiment in order to persuade people to shop in-store. 

‘This means launching one-off events or providing personalised experiences that create a genuine connection between customers and retailers.’

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