Over the past two decades, Britain’s high streets have been in decline as consumer behaviour has changed and economic pressures are causing retailers to close their shops.
The Centre for Future Studies Innovation Centre, at Kent University, sponsored by Anchor, argues that it is the older generations who will be an economic force to be reckoned with in shaping the reinvention of the high street.
It says that it is those retailers who are able to reinvent their businesses who will survive and prosper. The report estimates that over the next ten years almost two-thirds of all retail spending growth will come from those aged over 55. It says that they are going to drive retail with their considerable purchasing power, shopping behaviour and preferences as retailers respond positively to the demand for elderly friendly shopping environments.
In October 2016, Anchor (England’s largest not-for-profit housing association, providing housing care and support to people of 55 years old) launched a media campaign titled “Standing Up 4 Sitting Down” which identified the lack of seating in the high street and called for more seats for use by older people.
The campaign aimed to provide MPs, planners, businesses and the public with a better understanding of the broader challenges older people face on the high street.
Britain’s high streets have been in decline for the past two decades. The report says that they cannot continue with a “business as usual” model and are now facing a decade of “creative destruction”, a process through which innovation brings about the demise of whatever existed before. It will, it says, be those retailers who are able to reinvent their business who will survive and prosper.
The report asserts that the older generations will be an economic force to be reckoned with in shaping this reinvention. In the past, retailers have tended to focus on meeting the needs of the younger market segments. The report estimates that over the next ten years almost two-thirds of all retail spending growth will come from those aged over 55. This group, it is claimed, is going to drive retail with its considerable purchasing power, shopping behaviour and preferences as retailers respond positively to the demand for elderly friendly shopping environments.
The report is intended to generate debate on the future of the high street, so its assertions are intentionally strong. It presents an optimistic future state, with town centres and high streets making a positive social and economic impact on communities. As the report points out there will already be areas where this is developing and no doubt a more integrated use of space and buildings, with a more diversified range of options, in high streets and town centres, is a desired outcome.
The data on access, mobility and spending is interesting and does raise the issue of availability of accessible transport – where local bus services and community transport go to the places older people want, at times they want to travel. This is increasingly challenging when there are cuts being made to local transport, especially in rural areas.