The high street will never be over!

slogan about the high street

The high street will never be over!

During May, Clerkenwell Design Week takes place to celebrate a small, historic area of London where many architects, creative businesses and designers are located. It showcases design and interior brands and incorporates a talks programme.

One of the sessions was with Mary Portas with the focus on how to do good business rather than high streets but with a walk through her career, retail and high streets still featured.

Reflecting on her retail career she talked about how the power of music, art and performance can support getting people through the door and bringing energy to stores but also the key issue of understanding a store environment. Complementary to this is storytelling that brought joy to both fashion and the businesses she worked with. In our work, storytelling is a key part in engaging people with their high streets and markets.
Mary thought back to a time when retail staff got a feel for what was happening by walking the floor and using their intuition to make changes (it’s the same at markets and events too). As retailers expanded this became harder to do and decisions became more financially driven.

We have this situation now on a live project where we want to encourage the team to walk around the site, come up with ideas and see how customers use and interact with the spaces – it’s key to remaining agile and being able to change businesses when opportunities arise.

Mary moved on to talk about her latest venture, The Kindness Economy. She realised that it’s money, power and fame which anchor society and people are told what to buy (we’re thinking reality TV and influencers!) but she saw a way to change this based on the ethos of The Body Shop and Patagonia.

Her key takeaway on this change in direction was that the retail world and consumers didn’t know the damage they were doing to the planet (in the past) and as such the sustainable/ green way of doing things should be the root of the economy and not a side note if we are to lesson our impact.

However, it doesn’t mean it’s about compromising profit. It’s about how it’s earned; with good people, working well and doing good things.

Back to the high street… It will never be over! It will take a different shape. The shops that have gone – Debenhams and House of Fraser for example – were just two of many selling (generic) stuff to people (and in our view, they didn’t change quick enough to stand out) and that model has now gone.

Across high street and market projects, many of spend time talking about multi-function, experience, different etc and that’s key because retailers and other high street businesses doing what they have always done isn’t enough anymore.