High Street Revivals and the growth strategies changing everything

High Street Revivals and the growth strategies changing everything

Joe Faulkner
November 22, 2023

The high street retail scene isn’t without its struggle. We’ve seen the outcry over Wilkos’ recent decision to close nationwide and collectively, the public continues to rave into Woolworths nostalgia every now and again. But high street retail isn’t gone, in fact it’s going through a revival.  Giants such as Avon, a famously online-only retailer, are planning their first ever brick and mortar store in 137 years, whilst HMV’s return boasts a 66.8% surge in revenue. 

In this piece, we delve into the resurgence at length and explore some of the growth strategies behind iconic brands like Avon, LOAF, Whittards, Thorntons, Argos, and Habitat as they power the epic comeback. But before that, let’s recap:

A three decade long decline

Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen many of Britain’s town centres falling into dissolution. Struggling against the current of online retail, large out-of-town shopping centres, and unaffordable business rates. This was only further exacerbated by the 2020-21 COVID pandemic and subsequent rising inflation.

Just this past summer, the British Retail Consortium reported that 6,000 shops have closed in Britain in the past five years, with high streets in the North and Midlands seeing the most vacant units. We’ve also seen this trend take down some of Britain’s most loved household names, including the notorious His Master’s Voice aka HMV.

Once synonymous with music retail, HMV first found itself grappling with the fatal effects of online retailers, streaming services, and digital downloads in 2013. Despite its efforts, the high street stalwart was unable to shake the terminal decline in sales. Similar challenges were experienced by brands like Thorntons in the confectionery sector, having to substantially close its stores from 350 to 61 in the last two years. So what’s the deal now?

Growth strategies powering the renaissance

Despite these challenges, high streets are experiencing a renaissance. HMV is heading in a completely new direction with support from new ownership, Doug Putnam of Sunrise Records. Putnam successfully adapted the business model, honing in on growth tactics that drive brand loyalty, create buzz and bring back the nostalgia of exclusive in-store events. Looking for the inside scoop on the tactics promoting growth? Read some of the hiring and talent strategies that could support your business revival...

  1. Assembling the dream teams

To keep marketing, storytelling, and creativity as fresh and successful as possible, it’s no surprise more retailers are choosing to bolster their in-house teams as opposed to leaning on 360 agencies. By operating much like an innovation studio, retailers can reclaim conceptual and executional control and keep costs down. 

Core units built with content and creative talent (plus a select group of contractors) allow retailers to work on the full range of their digital and in-store touch points across their social presence to OOH marketing. We currently work with grocery giant Sainsbury's to supply talent and support for their in-house Agency "Zest." Together, we strengthen them with a range of specialist freelancers to support key campaigns at peak/seasonal times of year. The roles run right across creative, with Creative Leads, Social copywriters, Ecommerce Shoot Art Directors, Retouchers amongst the highly sought after list for contracting support as and when needed. Cutting down the external hands mean in-house teams become more efficient across the quality and speed of work delivered. Dream team sorted. 

  1. Instore experiences are back in

We won’t deny the obvious, online e-commerce has forever changed the way we shop. Whilst we saw the boom further take charge during the pandemic, with Amazon reporting a whopping 220% profit during 2020-21, we are witnessing a change. 

Research by NTT DATA UK&I reports 47% of consumers prefer to purchase clothing in-store on the high street.  The effects of the pandemic have left many consumers pining for engaging in-store experiences to compensate for a 2 year-long departure and the nostalgia to return back to the town centre is growing. 

With this in mind, retailers should look to cultivate unique in-store experiences that inspire and excite. Specialist experiential and related talent are crucial to support a wide range of activations to support this,  ensuring highly attractive, unique experiences to attract the masses. Roles that are especially key to this success are Specialist Retail Designers, Brand Experience Experiential Talent and Retail Strategists. The result? High street staples such as Whittards and LOAF showcase the potential of these hires...

LOAF’s ‘slowrooms’ for example, offer up a one of a kind showroom experience designed to keep customers in the world of LOAF with built-in biscuit bars, basement cinemas and even giant bears! Over at Whittard, their Mother’s Day Blend with Love Masterclasses experience was named their biggest PR activation of the year, resulting in a flurry of trade press exposure as well as the event being attended by London influencers, fans and more.

  1. Supercharging the next age of personalised consumer engagement with digital talent 

According to McKinsey, “traditional differentiation approaches in retail—such as a unique selection or strategic pricing and promotions—are not as effective as they once were, as competitors can easily imitate them.” Enter the age of data personalised marketing and ultra tailored experiences.

Highly personalised experiences are hard to beat due to the sheer range it's applied at (sometimes at the millions!). These tactics offer businesses the ability to differentiate themselves from competitors and foster unique brand loyalty relationships. Naturally, talent with skill sets in CRM, data analytics and digital marketing are highly attractive to retailers looking to make the most of tailor-made engagement due to the heavy data and digital specific skills needed. For more end-to-end support, highly skilled Digital Product and Customer Experience (CX) candidates are best fitted to handle the intricacies of customer experiences. As one of the UK’s most valued agencies, we are poised to support in this capacity, with a dedicated Product Division that consults clients within the retail space and other industries. 

In summary, the end of high street retail is not yet in sight. The renaissance continues and retail leaders are advised to bolster their teams with talent that not only support their growth strategies but lead their business into a new age of success. It’s crucial business leaders think closely about the skillsets they need in order to pull off one of a kind in store experiences, nurture brand loyalty and create buzz like never before.

Though HMV is a fantastic example of it working in real time, household names such as Thorntons, Argos, and Habitat are also making their second-debut. We cannot wait to see what 2024 lies in wait for these iconic brands.

Want more insights from the team? Click here  ?

Are you a business in wellness and looking to connect with retail talent? Reach out to me here for a confidential chat.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Thanks, you've been subscribed!