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How the UK high street is evolving and why independent retailers are thriving

2 August 2022 | Published by Faire

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How the UK high street is evolving and why independent retailers are thriving 

We’ve all heard plenty of stories about the ‘death of the high street’ in the UK over the past two decades. 

The first wave of casualties came as early as 2007, with household names like Woolworth’s shutting up shop for good. The trend has only continued since then, as more and more high-street stores close their doors.

But in reality, evidence suggests the high street isn’t dying––it’s evolving.

For independent brands and retail businesses, this is a huge opportunity. Here’s why.

A growing appetite for local 

Recent research tells us a lot about how the high street is changing.

A report from Barclays shows nine out of 10 consumers plan to shop locally more often. And even prior to the pandemic, an e-commerce trend report from 2019 revealed brands who didn’t sell on Amazon grew faster than those who did. 

The situation on the ground reflects this shift to local and independent. On one hand, retailers such as New Look, M&S, and Waitrose have been forced to shut down some of their high street stores, and others, such as Debenhams, have closed for good. 

For smaller, independent businesses on the other hand, the story is much more positive, with 62% of adults saying they shopped on their local high street for non-essential goods in 2022. 

This pivot in preferences means there’s a new space opening for smaller, independent brands to fill an important gap in the market––and appeal to those UK consumers looking for something different.

Adapting to changing consumer preferences 

There may well be a place for more independent businesses on the ‘new’ high street. But how can these business owners actually stand out from the crowd? 

Much of this will come down to how effectively businesses can demonstrate their values and authenticity. A recent study found 30% of consumers choose brands with ethical practices and values, while as many as 19% have stopped using certain brands or products because of ethical or sustainability related concerns. 

So how can small businesses take advantage of this? Crucially, it’s about understanding what your audience values, such as sustainability, and highlighting where those values align with what your business has to offer.

That’s why Faire allows brands to promote the values they embody—whether it’s being eco-friendly, organic, small-batch, women-owned, or much more. This allows retailers to discover and stock items they know their customers will love. At the same time, it enables retailers to prove their credentials as an independent business—so they can stand out against the crowd as consumers continue to tire of the chain store model. 

The new high street model for retailers and brands

Though our high streets and the businesses on them continue to change, they can and will continue to be central to UK communities, if independent brands and retailers work together to meet consumer demand.

For independent sellers, this means capitalising on this appetite for creative, sustainable products by selling B2B and broadening their reach. And for retailers, it’s about adapting to what consumers want and stocking products from independent sellers.

Navigating these shifting sands may feel incredibly complex for today’s businesses, but there’s a wealth of potential for those willing to change with the times and seize new opportunities. 

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