Down Your High Street

The Future of the High Street Survey

In the last few years, we have witnessed the decline of the high street, with fewer people opting to shop locally and instead choosing to find a ‘better deal’ online. This has led to the struggle of independent shops and boutiques, unable to compete with online marketplaces, despite the fact that independent retailers are an asset to the local economy.

However, there are now a number of initiatives in place to reunite the British public with their local high streets and bring independent retailers back into the spotlight. These include ourselves, Down Your High Street, a way to bring your local business online and acquire nationwide customers, Save the High Street, an industry-wide movement offering support and advice for high street shop owners and Great British High Street, who offer advice on how to support your local high street and present awards to successful high streets across the UK.

So, what’s next for the Great British high street? To find out what a variety of shopper’s think about the future of the high street and to better understand our DYHS audience, we surveyed a number of individuals both on our local high street and online.

The aim of the survey was to ask shoppers for their opinions on shopping locally with independents, compared to shopping online with big-name marketplaces like Amazon. A total of 390 people took part in the survey, 25% of which were shoppers surveyed in the town of Hertford, and 75% were surveyed via our team’s personal social media accounts.

Future of the High Street Survey Findings

Here are our survey findings:

1.  What was the last thing you purchased from an independent retailer?

When shoppers were asked to name the last item they bought from a local retailer, the most commonly purchased items were clothing and accessories.

The full results were:

- 90 people said clothing and accessories

- 70 people said a gift, including cards

- 60 people said food and drink

- 27 people said related items

- 5 people said toys

- The remainder included items such as coffee, milk and medicine

2.  Have you ever purchased online from a local independent shop?

- Yes 44%

- No 55%

- Unsure 1%

Of the people who answered ‘yes’ to purchasing goods online from a local independent retailer, reasons for doing so included the following:

- Boutique shops offer a targeted range of products

- Preference for the individuality of the items on the sites

- Good customer service and quick dispatch

3.  What would you purchase in-store rather than online?

We asked shoppers what they would rather purchase in-store than online, and the results reflect that of question 2, above, with fashion coming out top:

- Fashion 34%

- Various 26%

- Food & Drink 21%

- Home Decor 8%

- Other 5%

- Jewellery 3%

- Arts & Crafts 2 %

- Sports 1%

4.  Why do/would you only shop with local shops?

We wanted to find out the reasons people do shop with local independent retailers, as well as the reasons why they do both.

Of the people we surveyed, 24% said they don’t shop locally at all and the same percentage of individuals said they shop locally for individuality and to support local businesses.

Other reasons why people often choose to shop local, included the following:

- It can be a hassle sending things back

- Value the friendliness, expertise and customer service of local independent shops

- Good to support local shops but will go with convenience

- Like to buy locally for presents etc.

- Don’t always trust online shops

- Try to buy locally, but cannot always find what I want, so buy online

- To try clothes on. More importantly, the owner of the boutique has pre-selected so I can choose from their selections rather than wading through loads of clothes online.

5.  If all the UK local independent shops were on one marketplace (similar to Amazon), what would encourage you to shop on it?

When shoppers were asked what would make them shop independent retailers online, we received lots of interesting answers:

- I'd be encouraged by the site providing an experience as a USP over a one-stop-shop like Amazon

- Possibility to pick up items in-store after seeing them online, so you have them immediately

- Prices. Easy returns. Easily navigable website

- It would have to be cheaper than Amazon and have the same returns policies

- Better service and cheaper goods

- More choice or find what you’re looking for quicker

- Having the chance to shop with them in unsociable hours

6.  Which genre would you likely use this marketplace site for?

If question 6, above, were possible, we asked shoppers which category they would most likely buy from, and the main contenders were fashion (64%) and home and decor (60%).

7.  What would your preferred delivery method be?

One of the main gripes customers face when shopping online is paying for postage. We asked shoppers what their preferred method of delivery would be - 59% said next day, 44% said 3-5 days (free delivery) and 40% said click and collect (no cost), demonstrating that shoppers favour fast, free delivery.

The findings from this survey have been extremely eye-opening. We have found that the majority of people do like to shop locally to support independent businesses over bigger retailers, however, they are not always able to find what they want in-store, so have to shop online.

We also discovered that the most popular category for independent shopping is fashion, with the majority of people having recently purchased a clothing item from a high street boutique.

Additionally, we learnt that on the whole, people prefer to shop with independent retailers for their expertise, great customer service and trustworthiness - and this is exactly what sets high street independent retailers apart from commercial chains.

When shopping locally, we receive a tailored experience and find unique products that we can count on. At Down Your High Street we wholeheartedly believe in supporting independent businesses, and we now have evidence to suggest that the general public does, too. Through future-proofing independent businesses and allowing customers to shop both online and in-store, together we can control the future of the high street and make independent businesses boom again.