A nation of shopkeepers?

While many large national and international multiples are grappling with their large portfolios, and a current focus on the closure of non-performing stores or reversing new leases, there is meanwhile high street reinvention afoot…

The inner city high street was becoming increasingly monotonous and uninviting (for a multitude of reasons), and this trajectory needed change, and change, propelled by pandemic pressure, is now happening and rather than at the turning speed of an oil-tanker…at jet-ski speed.

Agile independents, existing or start-ups brands, are seeking high street and digital space and presence, that they previously could only dream of. Self-funded, or backed (sometimes invisibly by larger brands) many new brands will emerge on our high streets from ’21 onwards. (gpstudio has been approach by numerous very exciting brands looking for design excellence to support and propel them on their crusade, so this is not glass half full optimism or crystal ball gazing.)

They interestingly have three things in common well worth noting: agility; a desire to do things better; and all dream big. And in part, will populate our high streets with disruptive propositions. This ‘movement’, alongside stalwarts, could create a new high street landscape, which I can visualise, along with the real energy it will bring, and long-lasting impact on how we act, behave, and engage.

Meanwhile multiples (national and internationals) should look beyond the immediate and very understandable seismic dilemma’s they currently face, and run in parallel ‘change’, but not quick/poor changes (as some have recently demonstrated). Instead, downsize their portfolio’s?, probably yes, or take on the form of ‘Hydra’ in Greek mythology, and have many heads, one of which is immortal… These brands or destinations have a place, and will remain pillars of social and lifestyle engagement so shouldn’t lose their confidence- many are brands we love, many are brands that resonate with me personally, that I follow, need, desire and buy. Brands in this category (high street stalwarts, department stores and city centre malls) do however need to consider amongst other strategies the following: redefine their relevance; stamp their personality; provide specialisation; and champion brave chameleon-like change, which can be presented in many shapes and forms. Don’t give up on the high street (or mall)!, just take a leaf out of the book of the ‘new kids, soon on the block’.

A nation of shopkeepers? Yes!, but rather than the derogative meaning of this allegedly expressed by Napoleon, it could just be the birth of many new (or re-shaping of existing) brands and places, with real meaning and global relevance.