The death of the high street (is this still a place to go?)

By January 31, 2013General

Death of High Street

Jessops, Zavvi, Woolworths (and many more)….. Ever since the economy started to capitulate in such dramatic fashion, we have seen a number of established retailers close their doors for the final time.

Reports in the media suggest that there could be more to come

So where does this leave the role of experiential activity?

The great British high street. For decades it was the backbone of British retail. The public visiting en masse, every week, to shop amongst the dazzling array of retailers.

Footfall would be predictively high, come rain or shine. This predictable (and reliable) footfall formed an essential part of deciding where to create & activate a brand experience.

More recently, Shopping centres have stolen some of that high street traffic, luring consumers away to shop within a safe, climate controlled environment (where shoppers tend to have more choice and less wind!)

The internet has of course stolen a march on both. In the UK approximately 10% of all 2012 Christmas shopping was done online. A figure that will continue to grow and grow as we become ever more at ease with ‘one click’ ordering and browsing from the sofa.

So is this really a death knoll for the High street?

Probably not. But an evolution is slowly beginning to take place. Brands more than ever need to engage with their audience in the real-world. If in doing so they can bring some excitement and theatre into people’s lives, consumers will remain connected all the way to the checkout (even if it is online).

The High street is certainly not going to disappear overnight, but as more and more shops close down, a high street ‘to-let’ will hardly motivate people to spend their saturday afternoons there.

So where are people going and where are they spending their time?

Despite the downturn of the economy, families seem increasingly willing to spend their cash on leisure. Eating out at the pub or a restaurant, visiting sporting events or even just going to the cinema, Consumers seem happy to invest in a good time. With people spending more on food and leisure, the high street may well evolve into a lifestyle destination rather than simply retail.

For brands brave enough to take advantage, this evolving landscape does present some new opportunities. For instance, less retail options mean less noise.

If a brand can create truly memorable ‘consumer focused’ experiences, the reduction of competitive brand noise elsewhere should ensure audiences engage for longer and subsequently, have better recall of the event and the key communications.


With sharing on social media continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate, the potential reach for Brands beyond the physical experience is immense.We all talk about this being the age of recommendation, but the public will only do so when they have something positive and memorable to recommend.

With so many vacant shops, Brands should also look to take advantage of commercial space at next to nothing rents. Pop up stores are becoming commonplace, but often these are taken by art galleries or community projects.

Imagine creating a high street which was completely branded.
Where each shopfront represented a unique facet of the brand values or a unique experience to the adjacent store?

With enough investment, brands could create more than just an ‘experience’. Brands could create an attraction in itself, where people don’t just pass by, but instead, actively take time out to be a part of the fun.

At Hotcow we truly believe that Brands need to look beyond what they have been doing to date and look at what the future holds. There is an abundance of opportunity to create amazing, exciting events that linger in the minds of the audience long after they have gone home. Telling their friends and family about that one thing that happened to them that made their day worthwhile.

So in conclusion, is the high street dead? No.

With the right kind of thinking, it can become an experiential destination for everyone.

Hotcow is a multi-award winning Experiential Marketing agency. We get brands in front of consumers in ways that persuade them to buy. We fully implement our ideas; nothing needs to be farmed out. For more information or free consultation, contact us

Let us hear about your thoughts on the death of the high street by giving us a tweet @Hotcow!

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