Monday, 17 December 2018

In order to save our local high street, we need to support our local high street.

I will never understand the mentality of people who continuously complain about shops closing in their local town, and then travel to a big complex, miles away to spend their money in the same shops that are struggling, in their own town.

There's a thought that somehow it's all the councils fault, or the retailers. But that's not the full picture. Consumers are changing their habits. Fact. The internet is killing the high street, there is no doubt about that, but the final nail in the coffin, is shoppers refusing to shop local.

I've seen in from both sides.
In Nuneaton, managing Accessorize, customers would come back to us on a Monday, after spending loads of money at the weekend in a bigger store, normally Fosse Park when it was open, to get refunds or just comment that the shop was so much better. I covered management in the bigger stores too and would see the same customers, picking up the same bags and scarfs we carried in Nuneaton, saying how much they hated the town and much preferred travelling to Fosse/Birmingham to shop. As if Nuneaton wasn't good enough to spend their money in. I've never known a town to complain so much, yet do nothing so help themselves.

This attitude is not surprising, as it's coming from the top down. Conservative MP Marcus Jones, while quing for a coffee my first year managing Accessorize, confidently told me his wife loved the shop, and she would get vouchers/ money for Christmas and loved to shop in Monsoon in London, but that it was so convenient having a local store, so she could return things she changed her mind on.
This man is the locally elected MP, and even he admits to spending his money elsewhere.
Both the leases of Monsoon and Accessorise in Nuneaton are up for sale (along with a number of other stores in the town), and are unlikely to be renewed, if current losses continue to when the leases are up in 2020.

You don't have to look very far to hear Nuneaton people complaining about Nuneaton. In-fact, I'm looked at like I have 10 heads when I say how great I think the town is. It takes an outsider to see it I think. The negativity, especially online, is actually unbearable. No one seems to be taking responsibility for their own town and just expects it to magically pick up.
Comparatively, to other towns our size up and down the UK, our High Street is holding up pretty well. Despite a number of stores being in trouble (Debenhams, New Look, Select, HMV) their Nuneaton branches aren't on the closure list. But that may not be the way if people continue to shop else where.

There are very few brands missing ,and those that are make business sense not being here. Primark don't open in towns, they open in cities and destinations. M&S have changed their structure after financial trouble, and so focus on cities and destinations too. It obviously wasn't making money when it was here, so makes sense that it closed. The same can be said for MotherCare and Trespass.
Evans closed, due to profitability among other issues. There was clearly a market for a plus size retailer though, just at a lower price point as Yours is doing quite well.
Roman opened, despite being surrounded by competition. Schuh also saw an opportunity and opened in the old Faith unit. A brand missing from the high Street for 5+ years now, but still available in Debenhams. JD also have Nuneaton on their plan for the future.
People saying they want Hollister just make me laugh. The same as Zara, The White Company & Tommy Hilfiger just wouldn't make money here.

But what we do have are brands are starting to recognise that the Nuneaton shopper is notorious for sale. They love a good bargain. That is why the likes of Top Shop & Monsoon always carry sale. And when I say there are some good deals to be had I'm not lieing!! When exclusive ranges are marked down, and are size fragmented across the midlands, they are consolidated to Nuneaton, so you can shop them easily. I recently got a pair of Ivy Park running tights for £12! Don't mind if I do!
Warren James even opened an Outlet here.
It would make sense for the council to invest and explore the idea of inviting more brands to do the same. This would increase the variety of brands, and increase footfall. Something which I think all the cafes and independent retailers would be more than happy about.

The council aren't completely blameless obviously, parking charges are a pain point for a lot of locals. And I would have to agree, parking is extortionate in Nuneaton compared to surrounding areas, and no free Christmas parking is just a kick in the teeth. But by the time you paid petrol to somewhere else, the couple quid for parking isn't too bad. Debenhams will even refund your parking if you make a purchase there. Not that it's their responsibility, but they are being adaptive to the climate. I have a feeling more stores will follow suit. I'm actually surprised The Ropewalk haven't yet joined this initiative too considering their fantastic step up in marketing in recent months.

I have made a point this year of doing as much shopping as I possibly can in Nuneaton. I knew the High Street here was good, but I was rather impressed at the amount of big brands we actually have.
As well as a huge number of small and medium size enterprises. Jewellers, Mens' tailoring, Womens' fashion, shoes, gifting, furniture, beauty & cafes. (Molly's is a favourite!!)

If more people made an effort to shop local when they can, the local high street would get a much needed boost, and so many stores may not face closure. We can't expect anyone else to fix our town.

For the record, I've lived and worked in Nuneaton for 6 years, after growing up in Dublin, where I worked in and managed a variety of stores across the retail sector.
I love my new town, and I proudly tell people about the wonderful parks, museum, library and other amenities we have here.