Death of the High Street

With retailers facing the challenges of online shopping, the phrase ‘death of the high street’ has become a familiar term in recent years as it seems people are less inspired to go into town centres, favouring clicking ‘next day delivery’ to receive their purchase right to their door. This has changed the nature and experience of shopping and created a challenge for the physical versus the ease and speed of digital retail.

Shopping online is a trend that has dramatically changed the nature of retail over recent years, raising concerns about the future. This is not only affecting individual high street shops but UK wide retail centres. A combination of lower rate consumer spending the impact of the internet, and the increasing rise of rent have all contributed in making it very difficult for retailers to trade and to make any kind of profit.

Dead Malls

There is an increasing worry that shopping centres will follow in the footsteps of many US shopping centres which are now known as ‘dead mall’s’ or ‘ghost malls,’ the term used to describe the decaying buildings left when all retailers have left!

history of highstreet

In order to avoid this, UK shopping centres need to change to survive. There needs to be more on offer, shopping centres “need to think like a hospitality brand in order to survive,” they need to realise and accept that “there has been a marked shift to the ‘experience economy.”

The experience economy revolves around the popularity in spending time and money on memorable experiences, something to get excited about going to, something to tell all their friends about and to share on social media. We Are Placemaking specialise in creating these events in public spaces, with footfall numbers proving evidence that these events boost footfall and are encouraging retail spaces to be seen as destination.

Experience Economy

A great example of this ‘experience economy’ working is in Westquay, Southampton who we have worked with on many Placemaking events. The Westquay shopping centre is a large shopping complex with a wide range of shops, restaurants and cafes. In recent years there was an obvious increase of units closing due to a huge lack of customers and footfall coming to Westquay, this was however until Hammerson put a lot of money into the re-development of the area.

In front of the shopping centre is a large esplanade area that is perfect for events. We are Placemaking, are now in our third year of producing The Festival of Light on the Esplanade. The event brings in a large amount of footfall over the weeklong event yearly, and brings in a large amount of footfall to retailers throughout the whole centre and surrounding areas. The increase of dwell time in the centre, restaurants and shops around the Esplanade during this event is huge in comparison. Another example is a two week Wimbledon event that we have produced over the previous two years with footfall of over 44,000 over the week long. These events bring a range of age groups to the shopping centre for a free, fun day out for all the family and boost the footfall to the surrounding retailers.

Father Christmas in Residence

Last Christmas we worked with Grosvenor Estates to create a Christmas experience for families in the lead up to Christmas. We came up with an immersive and shareable experience to ensure talk ability and to spike media interest during the activation of the empty unit. We transformed an empty unit into an immersive Christmas Experience called ‘Father Christmas in Residence,’ which is now moving into its second year as we are currently putting together ‘Storytime with Father Christmas.

The event was highly popular with parents bringing their kids to enjoy the Father Christmas in Residence experience and the popularity has continued with a currently sold out second year two weeks prior to going live.

It is no secret that these experiences and events work in keeping shopping centres and areas alive. As times continue to change the demand for something new and exciting increases, people are becoming more demanding in what they expect, and the experience economy continues to crow.

Placemaking is becoming the solution to the decline of the high-street  – this is the public realm of 15 years ago re-born and being championed by developers and the retail sector.