01 February 2012

High Street Blues?

Andrew Davies Editor 2011

If you're looking for a retail showroom which is better, the High Street or the out-of-town unit? Kbbreview managing editor Andrew Davies weighs up the options...

The recent Mary Portas report on the state and future of Britain's high streets put a huge amount of focus on the value of the traditional shopping hub being the centre of life in the average town.

While that report has had a mixed reaction, (if you haven't read it yet, I do recommend it if you have anything to do with the UK retail market) it has plenty of ideas on what should be done to revitalise what many see as the withering heart of our towns.

But putting all that aside, it did make me think about the relative advantages of being on the high street for a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom retailer. I probably see just as many out-of-town retailers as I do high street ones and both have their pros and cons, so is there a clear winner?

And if you were going to open a new showroom tomorrow, which would you pick?

For the high street, it's all about footfall and the awareness that comes with a constant passing crowd - when they come to think of a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom the first name that pops into their head will be yours. Reputation and that kind of subliminal recognition can pay huge dividends.

But this isn't a high footfall sector. People rarely pop into a KBB showroom on a whim in between getting a sausage roll and a newspaper. Equally, being on a busy high street invariably means a lack of parking and a restricted amount of showroom space for very high rents and rates.

Over on the retail park or industrial out-of-town site, parking simply isn't an issue, and for the same rents and rates you can get a huge amount of space to really let your imagination run wild with the showroom and potentially dozens of displays.

But no one will know you're there unless you have really effective marketing - and that's expensive. Also the locations tends to be soulless, uninspiring places and you have to work hard to create any kind of atmosphere if you don't want your potential customers to feel they're sitting in a warehouse.

As the Mary Portas report underlines, if you're on the high street, much of your fortune depends on the relative success of the shops around you - it doesn't matter how good your showroom is if the rest of the street is rundown and littered with charity shops or 'to let' signs.

The out-of-town doesn't have that problem, but all the onus is on the consumer to come and find you - and I've had plenty of experience of sat navs getting totally lost when trying to find a unit on an estate.

So where do your loyalties lie? When every aspect of business is being revaluated and assessed what are your reasons for staying where you are?


Let me know what you think...andrew@kbbreview.com

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