Lately there has been much discussion in the press and media generally about the future fate of the British High Street and retail more generally. The most recent report highlighted last week was how retail chains are closing their shops at a rate of around 30 a day. Changes in our shopping habits with the increase in on-line sales together with the effect of the spending slump have all combined to affect our purchasing ability. A number of high profile retailers such as Peacocks and JJB Sport have gone into administration whilst designer brands such as Jaeger have had to be sold and luxury brands such as Burberry and Mulberry are seeing their profits squeezed. The High Street and the future of shopping and retailing need to be thought about differently. What I find interesting when you look more closely at the figures and the research around shop closure is that despite the escalation in chain closures the number of overall vacant shops remains the same. Independent retailers are opening and thereby saving our towns and high streets from an even worse fate. I would also like to suggest they are also saving us as consumers from what was an increasingly bland and uniform retail experience. It is independents that can offer greater variety, originality and individuality.
If you can buy anything from anywhere across the world via a click of your mouse; what is going to encourage you to go out shopping, what is going to tempt you into making a purchase? Surely a more visceral experience is needed; one that is about the ideas, the materials, the products as well as the retailing. This is why I believe so many people have welcomed the fact that we have opened our pop-up COLLEGE SHOP again this year. Not only can you buy a garment, accessory, illustration or bag from a graduate who might destined to be at the front of where fashion is going, but the fact that our visual merchandising students have contributed to the displays means there is new thinking about display. Yet again the company behind Carnaby Street have supported us in providing a retail unit – this allows us to take chances in showcasing new talent. They want to see new ideas and talents to help Carnaby be at the fore-front of new approaches to shopping. I feel it is this sort of unique partnership that will help revitalise our shops as well as allowing new talent to find an outlet. Without this sort of collaboration we will see more shops go to the wall- yet we have the talent and consumers have the inclination to support such initiatives- the sales at the COLLEGE SHOP are testament to that.