For a long time now, Christmas has been the most profitable time of the year for many businesses, with bustling high streets filled with festive shoppers annually scouring the stores to buy their Christmas gifts, or at least that was once the case.
Modern Christmas has an ever-changing face, with most people now opting to do their Christmas shopping online thanks to the convenience of having things delivered straight to their door, but what impact does this have on the high street, and more importantly, the social aspect of Christmas?
The death of the high street
The decay and demise of the high street has been a hot topic for a couple of years now, but whenever Christmas rolls around, the issue is yet again brought to the forefront of business discussions.
Throughout the last decade, more and more chain stores have found themselves being shut down as they’re not financially viable in the current market. Shoppers can go online and browse an endless number of websites that will deliver a staggering number of varied products to their home, which makes the idea of going to the high street and entering a variety of shops to find what you’re looking for a bit redundant.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the retail figures from last Christmas (2017) were at their lowest point for over four years, whereas online sales rose 21.3%. Examples of shops that have fell victim to the popularity of online shopping include Woolworths, Blockbusters, and more recently, Toys ‘R’ Us. You might be wondering why this is such a big issue and how it can affect so many people, this is where jobs come into play. Retail jobs have been a staple of society for what seems like eternity and as more and more stores begin to close down, many people are losing their jobs and there’s less availability of employment opportunities, particularly for young people.
A lonelier Christmas
Christmas is a holiday that exists to celebrate being together and being part of a community. It could be argued by some that the idea of going into town with friends or family to buy presents and seeing other groups of people doing the same was a large part of what made Christmas such a festive time. Many towns and high streets have a Christmas lights switch on event every year, but will this tradition find a reason to continue if it’s a ghost town?
Why do people prefer online Christmas shopping?
There are a number of reasons why the high street has begun to falter over the years. Perhaps the biggest issue for shoppers is the inconvenience of parking. Town centres tend to have numerous restrictions on parking, causing people to drive around for a while in search of a space, and even when they find one, they’ll more than likely have to pay to park. Combine this with having to queue up amongst many other shoppers and you’ll see why online shopping is more appealing. Not to mention that you can often find the same products at a cheaper price when shopping online.
How can the high street survive?
In order to maintain the levels of employment as well as help our economy, it is vital for our high streets to survive, so what can they offer that the Internet can’t? As mentioned, there is a festive atmosphere that captivates high streets during the Christmas period, this is something that just browsing websites can’t ever recapture, but this alone isn’t enough to draw in consumers.
Accompanying ‘experiences’ with shopping seems like a possible solution. Many people don’t want to make the effort of travelling to their local town centre to get something they can just order online, but if they make the effort to do something else on their high street whilst also doing some shopping as an added bonus, they won’t need to do it online. But what kind of ‘experiences’ could a high street offer?
There are plenty of unique business ventures that could replace the many closed down shops that now litter towns, whilst supporting the shops still in business. Places like bowling alleys, escape rooms, and even a crazy golf course could entice consumers to make a trip to the high street that they might not have taken otherwise. This also gives people more opportunities to do things together, which is especially important over the Christmas period.
How long does the high street have left?
With the population of the high street continuously decreasing, it might seem inevitable that the concept of going out to do your Christmas shopping will become a thing of the past. The idea of our high streets becoming empty rows of closed down shops is an unsettling one at best, but if the rate of shoppers visiting the high street continues to decrease, it might not be long until this becomes our reality.