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DEBATE: Does it matter if consumers desert the high street?

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With House of Fraser closures, does it matter if consumers desert the high street for online outlets?

John Phillips, general manager (EMEA) at Zuora, says YES.

Yes, it does matter if consumers desert the high street.

Bricks-and-mortar retail is in trouble. Across the US and Europe, online retail is growing exponentially, while offline sales seem to remain flat, with an annual growth of around one per cent.

But that doesnt mean that its dying, and it definitely doesnt mean that consumers will – or should – completely desert the high street in favour of online outlets. Its important to remember that in the UK alone, there are still 24bn annual transactions within physical stores – and that number is expected to grow.

Retailers need to re-imagine the purpose of stores, not close them, and embrace a hybrid retail model. The store should be the physical realisation of the customer relationship, accelerating loyalty.

They can then monetise that bond by extending the relationship digitally and becoming consistently connected.

That way, the focus will shift from selling products, to selling the outcome – the service.

Read more: House of Fraser closures list: Oxford Street and City branches to be axed

Guita Blake, senior vice president and head of Europe at Mindtree, says NO.

The closure of House of Fraser stores is a sad but necessary part of the restructuring and re-engineering of the British high street.

But lets not look at this as a simplistic case of “high street versus online”. From the retailers point of view, it doesnt necessarily matter where customers shop. Their objective is to serve their customers in the way that works best for making sales via the right channel at the right time, whatever that channel is.

It might not seem it this week, but the future is incredibly bright for British retail. The high street is not going away, but it is changing. Bricks-and-mortar sales grew in 2017 and Amazon opened its first physical store in 2018.

Smart predictive tech is going to transform the “omnichannel” retail experience and revolutionise the British high street for the better, with successful retailers offering personalised, fun and consumer-centric experiences to attract more customers to their bricks-and-mortar destinations.

Read more: House of Fraser confirms plans to close more than half of its stores

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