Thursday, February 06, 2014

High Streets as celebrations of the self

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I found out my local art gallery is closing down when I strolled in to get a couple of pictures framed.
Just another victim of the recession? Well yes and no. More a victim of a structural change in how we shop.

High Streets are becoming the home to those things which require our presence to benefit. And mostly to benefit means those things which give us some corporeal satisfaction or improvement: restaurants, coffee shops, beauty salons, hairdressers, nail bars and tatoo parlours. Even the estate agents are thinning out.
There are more places in my High Street (and I bet in yours if you live in any small town in the UK) where I could get a massage, than places I could buy groceries.

The supermarkets have supersized and stalk the edges of towns.

What's left in our town centres is a celebration of the self, where we go to make pilgrimages to pampering.
Oh - and what else? Banks and mobile phone shops.

My guess is that unless your business is serving physical need/improvement and you are surviving in the High Street, your business model just hasn't been disrupted hard enough yet. Yes, banks and mobile phone operators... your time will come.

What time is that? Well let's stroll back to that art gallery. The owner told me artists have used the web to disintermediate the middle man - the galleries. Today people wander into his gallery, see an original they like then go look up the artist and find they can buy something very similar for a few pounds cheaper direct.
And since the gallery has its High Street overheads, it can't compete.

So next time you are thinking about your next mobile phone contract - go online and see if you can't find something a bit like it (or a lot better actually, like giffgaff which features in my book) for less money and you'll be hastening the process those inside the large mobile phone retailers are already preparing for - the decline and relatively rapid removal of the High Street mobile phone store.
Now, what's next for banking I wonder?

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?