ANALYSIS | Save our high streets

time as the Build Back Better report features several sections on community and redeveloping the high street to be a multiuse space, not only featuring shops but also leisure facilities and community areas. The intention of the report appears to be to move away from a traditional British high street and to something modern and never seen before.

What do the retailers think? Some KBB retailers have already seen a change within their local area that reflects the Government’s aim, that the high street will become more about community, rather than just about shops. For example, Frazer Goodwillie, director of Billingham Kitchens, a showroom located on a small, local high street in the suburbs of Stockton on Tees, is already seeing this new high street format in his local area. “Proper high streets for retail are in freefall, town and city centres are expensive for rents and rates, with parking and delivery challenges to face,” says Goodwillie. “I see most centres becoming more coffee shops, bars and restaurants with quick need

retailers/services. Any sort of destination shopping, from department store to specialist retail-like KBB can be much better served with an out of town retail park.”

Rubina Hughes, owner of high street showroom Zara Kitchen Design in Berkshire, has also seen a definite change in her area, but it is making her question her decision to be on the high street at all. “Since we have been here, there has been re-development and change,” she explains. “It’s not a shopping destination, more a place for recreation.

“It is good to be in a high street location, but we have been considering whether we need to be there. Especially as a kitchen is a big purchase that most people have already researched before walking into a showroom. Also, most people make an appointment before they come in.” Unfortunately, it does also seem like there is a bit of a postcode lottery at play with this system as retailers have little to no control of their surrounding areas as high streets can change both for the worse and the better without any consultation.

The outlook for our high streets is more beautiful, more vibrant and more adaptable, with local communities empowered to take the lead and ensure they

can succeed Communities Secretary, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP

The location lottery also extends to local councils as the Build Back Better High Streets paper gives a mix of policy changes, but many are suggestions that councils may – or may not – take on board. So much of the high street is dictated by local councils, but it could be an opportunity for you – to work with your local council in making it bespoke for your customers and business.

Do KBB showrooms have to be on the high street? W

ith doubts over the future of UK high streets and Covid

lockdowns causing retailers to adapt their opening hours and policies, it begs the question, where is the best place to have a KBB showroom?

When deciding on a location,

there are various factors to think about: who is your target market? How do they find you? And what other showrooms are there in your local area?

Even now that Covid restrictions have been lifted, the majority of KBB showrooms are still running on an appointment only basis. Some retailers argue that passing trade isn’t what makes KBB showrooms tick. Instead, it is better to have focused sessions with potential customers rather than people wandering in to browse. Trevor Scott, director of Rugby Fitted Kitchens, believes that people who wander in off the high street are often just “tyre kickers” who have no intention of ever buying anything.

30 High-end retailer Searle

and Taylor has a showroom in the heart of Winchester, and director Darren Taylor has been in many locations in the last 30 years, from farm buildings to industrial estates and retail parks. However, Taylor believes that high street locations suit the more premium end of the market. Premium retail space does come at a cost though; as Taylor acknowledges, however, it has bonuses like not spending so much on marketing as his showroom is the billboard of his kitchen brand. However, even if you don’t want people wandering in off the street, a high-street location is good for brand building. Even though a showroom in a high street location is likely to be significantly more expensive, you can, effectively, reduce your marketing budget on the basis that the showroom will do some of your advertising for you. Matthew Barnum, director of ICE

Having multiple

Interiors in Lymington, understands the cost of being on the high street yet knows that being part of the community and not away on a retail park has grown his business. “We accept that we get less value for money in terms of cost versus space, but out of town locations have to spend significantly more on advertising to bring awareness of their businesses and location,” he explains. “Being based on a high street means that we feel much more a part of the local business community.”

showrooms in one location can create a destination. In many towns, similar businesses tend to cluster together – estate agents being a prime example. London is often the exception, not the rule, but look at Wigmore Street for kitchens, Clerkenwell for bathrooms, and the King’s Road, Chelsea, for interior designers. These clusters of likeminded retailers on the high street create a destination spot. Graham Robinson at Halcyon Interiors on Wigmore Street says: “We always wanted to be on Wigmore street; it’s the place to be for all things kitchens. The high street generally is quieter than in times before, with increased internet shopping. But, saying that, Wigmore Street is busy, as more kitchen and appliance brands have joined the street, it has become a destination like no other.”

· October 2021

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