How to stave off the growing internet threat?
IT was somewhat surprising to see Nottingham bucking the trend for the wrong reasons recently, following the release of the latest batch of employment data.
The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this month, show that while the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance fell nationally in November, in Nottingham and the rest of the county, it increased.
Normally at this time of year, we'd expect to see a seasonal bump, with businesses taking on extra staff for cope with increased demand and custom over the Christmas period.
However, this year, the opposite has appeared to happen, which highlights the stark reality facing many businesses – particularly in the retail sector – in the current economic climate.
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National headlines would seem to suggest that shoppers are deserting the High Street in their droves and making their festive purchases online instead.
Whilst we've not seen any evidence of that happening to a significant degree here in Nottingham, which remains a vibrant place to shop, what it does highlight is the conundrum faced by the High Street – how can it stave off the growing threat of the internet?
Although there is no doubt that retailers need to adapt to be able to compete in the current marketplace, I personally don't believe that online shopping sounds the death knell for the High Street.
People still enjoy the physical experience of shopping on the High Street, providing that the overall offer is a good one – that means a fair and accessible car parking policy, a wide and diverse range of shops and an attractive, well-maintained environment that is free from crime and anti-social behaviour.
That is something that the internet cannot compete with.
However, shoppers' attitudes are changing and although consumers still enjoy the social and leisure side of the retail experience, they are also embracing the value and convenience offered by online shopping.
Many savvy retailers are adapting to this shift in consumer focus by offering click and collect services, which give offer shoppers the chance to order and buy their products online before collecting them in-store.
Others are looking at ways to embrace emerging social media, mobile communications and eCommerce platforms to drive both sales and customer footfall.
It's a tricky balancing act, but in spite of the growth in online sales, in-store shopping still plays a crucial role in the modern retail experience.