Footfall across UK retail destinations fell last week, according to research released by retail analysts Springboard. Footfall declined by 6.7% from the week before - a marked contrast from the 11.6% jump seen in the previous week, which was boosted by the bank holiday and warmer weather. However, footfall across destinations was 18.4% below 2019 levels, having been 14.5% below the week before.
While commentators suggest that this is a further sign of the demise of the British high street, there is cause for optimism. Boohoo are preparing to open a small Debenhams store back on the high street in hopes of securing major deals with beauty brands. Despite this showing there may be a lifeline for physical retailers, retail inevitably has some obstacles to overcome.
One way for retailers who are looking to revitalise their outlets in stores is to make visiting shops exciting once again – implementation of digital concepts is a perfect way to do so, whether it be through Artificial Intelligence or some type of immersive experience. The idea of going back to high-street after a year of isolation may sound a little daunting for some, however, merging the digital world with traditional shopping can provide a smooth, stress-free and innovative experience for consumers.
Other such hybrid models of retail are shown through the integration of retail technology. Ubamarket, a pioneering retail app, has been on the front lines of innovation in the retail sector, helping supermarkets and convenience stores to revolutionise their operations by integrating with mobile technology.
The Scan, Pay, Go app Ubamarket provides is currently being implemented by a list of retailers including Central England Co-Op, SPAR, Budgens and Londis, with key features such as age verification, aisle sat-nav and AI-driven personalised offers proving instrumental in helping physical retail outlets transform their service offering to compete in a post-COVID landscape.
Will Broome, Founder and CEO of retail-tech company Ubamarket, discusses how Britain’s high street retailers can enhance the shopping experience and usher in a new age of physical retail:
"As one of the most affected and integral institutions in society, it is essential that Britain’s retailers look to adapt to the new conditions to ensure they adapt to the challenges Covid throws their way. Retail technology offers an all-encompassing solution; in Ubamarket’s case in the form of a simple app; which can put consumers in control, doing away with the need for time-consuming queues, unhygienic checkouts, and confusion about where products are and whether they are in stock. By building lists off-site and checking stock before entering the store, retail technology can help reduce necessary queues before consumers travel to the outlet. It remains to be seen how the sector will fare beyond Coronavirus, but retail technology is sure to play a significant role.
"Ubamarket's mobile technology helps retailers to offer customers an incredible experience when they come to shop at their stores. Not only does our technology revitalise and revolutionise the process of shopping in-store for customers, but it also provides retailers with a much-needed method to get back on track and ensure they can thrive in the midst of a tough climate for the industry."