Could concept stores be the secret to saving the high street?

It’s been 25 years since Amazon.com launched its online shopping site, and it’s fair to say we haven’t looked back. As more and more people turn to online stores for their shopping needs, it’s clearly having a detrimental impact on our high street. Despite the doom and gloom surrounding the decline in shops 87% of Brits want a clothing store on the high street, and there are some big clothing brands who are hitting back and hoping to reshape the Great British high street. 

Here in the North, Statista reports that in Northern England 68% of us are worried about losing our high street and as the North-South divide rages on, so too does the generational one. As people over the age of 55 are looking for more of a traditional high street with newsagents, travel agents and homeware stores, younger people are looking for a high street of convenience and experience. They want a high street that offers fast-food restaurants and take-aways, as well as experiences that can’t be bought online and posted by next day delivery like beauticians and cinemas.

What is a concept store, and could it be the saviour of our shops? 

In a bid to entice people back to the high-street, shops are turning themselves into self-titled concept stores. Designed as a way of evoking a certain lifestyle, they carefully curate unique experiences that are in line with their brand ideals. When successful, concept-stores encourage interaction. They are about creating multi-sensory experiences that make them a destination venue in their own right. 

Combining café culture and clothing

It’s no secret that we’ve become a nation of coffee connoisseurs and cake enthusiasts and our café culture seems to be the mainstay of the high street. Ahead of its time, Marks and Spencer’s opened its first café in 1935 and despite uncertainty over the decades has managed to weather the storm and has come out the other side – in part due to appealing to younger audiences, but also thanks to its cafes becoming a meeting hub. 

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And British brand Belstaff – best known for its hardy outerwear – has recently opened its own café in its Spitalfields store. Designed to encourage shoppers to stay a while, the cafes will soon be rolled out worldwide. Created to be in keeping with the brands motor heritage, the café will serve coffee as well as gin and tonics to refresh thirsty shoppers. 

High-end high street fitness studios have also discovered the power of a post-pilates posh coffee. Designed for clients to relax a little before or after a class, they exude the same appeal as a private members club like SOHO House.  

Extra-curricular experiences

Stores such as Sweaty Betty are beating the internet at its own game by introducing fitness classes to many of its boutiques. Not only is it a clever piece of marketing as instructors showcase the brands luxury athleisure-wear whilst taking the classes, it’s also a great place to connect with like-minded people. 

Similarly, many independent stores have teamed up together to create one-off experiences such as wreath-making, wine tasting and chocolate making in a bid to showcase not only what they offer, but the sense of community they bring to the high street. 

The combination of shopping and experience could be a way that the high- street is not only revived but starts thriving again. 

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