An Open letter to the High Street

Dear Retailers,

It’s time to step up!

Right now, we’re being urged to shop local and most of us (71% if the stats are to be trusted) are ready and willing to do just that.

It might cost a little bit more, but if it’s going to keep our local High Streets going, then that’s the price we have to pay – as long as the experience is right.

Today I braved a Christmas shopping spree for the first time since lockdown 2. I wish I hadn’t bothered. Retailers seem to have forgotten how to keep their customers happy. Or maybe they’ve forgotten to care.

Either way both common sense and good old customer care have gone out the window and they need to be rediscovered if the High Street is going to have any chance of surviving.

Here’s how my shopping trip went:

Shop one. The person serving left the till to research an order for a customer on the computer. As the queue backed up, no one else stepped up to take over a till. Meanwhile, there was still someone stood at the door keeping an eye on the numbers coming in (never mind the fact they couldn’t get past because the queue was now so big it was blocking the store!).

Shop two. A well-known store with a Post Office upstairs has currently introduced a queuing system to the second floor. That’s fine, except there’s no signage and it results in two queues, blocking one aisle, travelling in opposite directions, with no room for social distancing. A special mention to the staff member standing on the stairs shouting at anyone who tried to go upstairs without realising there’s a queue.

Shop three. Just as I was about to enter a very well-known chemist, a hand-written note was put on the door to say ‘prescription collection only’.

Factor in that you’re wearing a mask, so it’s harder to breathe, communicate (or see, if you’re a fogged-up glasses wearer, like me) and it all makes for a lousy experience.

I know I’m not the only person that feels this way. Yesterday, my sister was telling me about her experience in a bookstore. They didn’t have the book she wanted, but kindly offered to order it in and contact her when it arrived.

So, that’s another trip and another car park cost, when it could all be done from the comfort of her own home.  It’s no wonder we’re turning to the efficiency of Amazon Prime.

This last few weeks, the stores that shaped my childhood and teenage years have gone out of business and if my generation is falling seriously out of love with the High Street, you’ve got no hope of attracting or keeping the interest of a demographic that has grown up in an online world.

It’s time you re-think how your stores do things and the customer and the experience need be at the centre of it. If something isn’t in stock, there needs to be an option to have it delivered to a home. There has to be a more customer-friendly alternative to long queues and why not invest some time in coming up with collection points so we don’t have so much to carry.

The most important thing is that you need to find a way to make us customers feel valued again. There has to be a way to create people-centric experiences that tap into tech fatigue rather than make us crave shopping from our sofas.

Like the vast majority of people, I find it so sad to see all these empty stores and I just hope you can find the creativity and imagination to make the shopping experience something we actually want to do again.

Please, please step up, we’re rooting for you.