As lockdown restrictions ease and people are starting to gather in pubs and restaurants, city centers in the UK are slowly beginning to buzz again. But what does this mean for retail businesses? Will the main shopping streets, which have been severely affected, ever fully recover?
When answering this question, it’s important not only to consider the effects of the pandemic. The crisis that retail businesses in city centers are facing reaches back even further than COVID. The rise in online sales is one of the more obvious factors that shop owners consider in recent years.
This has led to a decreasing number of rented retail spaces. Both landlords and cities have been impacted negatively. Empty and boarded up shops devalue shopping streets and affect other businesses nearby. In addition, the spending habits of many people have changed due to the job insecurity that the pandemic caused.
As restrictions are beginning to ease, there are some signs of recovery. High street shopping is no longer taken for granted, and many people value the experience of shopping in physical retail stores.
More than just shopping
Many people may be looking for more than a shopping experience during this time. This could be an opportunity for business owners and cities to adapt to consumer demand. Leisure and community services could be developed, and new projects could help city centers strive again.
New residential areas could provide better access to shops. The UK government announced in December 2020 that it plans to invest up to £830 million from the Future High Streets Fund. Two of the main goals are to help areas affected by the pandemic and to create more jobs.
Aside from financial options that have been made available by the government to help businesses recover, there are other resources available. Outsourcing marketing services can help with growth and recovery. Companies going through change could benefit from an interim recruiter, who can help with transitions and assist employees during this difficult time.
During this challenging time, communities coming together and efforts made by both the private and the public sector can help improve the situation. A combination of residential, leisure, and community offers in city centers and on high streets, not only in the UK, could lead to new interest and help these areas strive again.