Is The High Street Really Dying: Along With Please and Thank You?

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Is The High Street Really Dying: Along With Please and Thank You?

Is The High Street Really Dying: Along With Please and Thank You?

I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as a shopaholic but I definitely used to enjoy the high street retail experience. Browsing, taking my time to make my selection, enjoying the interaction with retail staff and generally appreciating the overall experience. However, it’s just not what it used to be.

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When I was in the 6th form studying for my A Levels (many moons ago!) I worked as a Saturday Only sales assistant for two large retailers in Croydon, South London where I grew up. Firstly, British Home Stores, where I worked in the customer restaurant and then at Allders of Croydon. At the time, I remember being told that Allders was one of the largest department stores in Europe. It certainly attracted shoppers from across the UK and internationally (in fact, one of the departments I worked in managed tax free shopping for visitors to the UK). It was the jewel in the crown of what was then a bustling, thriving high street.

As a sales assistant in Allders, our training was pretty extensive. As well as learning all about the products we were serving and selling, we also learnt a lot about customer service. In those lofty days way before loyalty and points cards, our training included the importance of making customers feel appreciated and valued so they would continue to buy from our store. There was absolutely no way we could get away with:

  • standing about chatting to each other when customers were present
  • serving customers without actively engaging with them
  • ringing their items through the register without telling them how much their shopping had come to
  • finishing their transaction without thanking them for their custom.

All things that seem to be increasingly commonplace and particularly annoy me about today’s high street shopping experience.

good customer service

Experiential Shopping: Are You Being Served?

The decline of the high street is well documented with some predicting that the high street as we previously knew it will just not be seen again. There are many who say that the High Street shopping experience is something today’s customers just don’t want anymore. Maybe today’s customer is less tolerant of slow or poor service and the inconvenience they experience when shopping in person compared to the ease (not to mention the choice) they have with an online retail experience.

”We don’t think the high street is dying, we just think brands need to understand how to capture the attention of the consumer again, prove value, and remind them of the benefits of going in-store.” - PRAGMATIQ

Getting customers to fall back in love with the experience of shopping is certainly a challenge. Especially as we become more time stretched, impatient and seduced by the ease and convenience of tapping, clicking and same day or next day delivery! Recognising this, some retailers have looked at ways to make their in store in person offerings more experiential, adding value for their customers and giving them a reason to go into the store rather than buying online.

“There can be no resting on your laurels or just opening the door and expecting people to come back in…..We need to keep providing an experience and service that is fundamentally compelling.” - Majestic Wine Executive Chair and Chief Executive John Colley.

Yes people’s lifestyle and habits have changed but shopping on the high street could and should still be a much better experience. Extensive choice, better quality, human interaction, eye contact along with common courtesy, please and thank you….just a few of the things that seem increasingly absent from our high street. I appreciate the world (and the high street) has moved on dramatically since my 1980s Allders of Croydon days but surely there are some lessons from back in the day that we shouldn’t lose sight of completely.

Further Reading



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