By Daniel Hunter

Consumers want to play an active role in shaping the future of the high street, according to new research from Deloitte. When it comes to the management of their local high street, 73% of consumers think they should decide which shops and services are included.

Despite highly publicised concerns regarding its future, this study found consumers continue to value the high street and want to be empowered to help reinvent it.

Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte comments: “Much has been written about the ‘end of the high street’, however, we take a different view. This latest research shows that the high street remains vital to consumers, albeit the role it plays is likely to adapt in response to emerging digital retail trends.

“However, the high street needs help to enable it to evolve in response to the changing landscape. An important factor in this will be the development of mechanisms that address its fragmented ownership and management structure, together with planning policies that constructively support the regeneration of town centres. A change in approach is needed to allow high streets to create the right mix of shops, leisure and services for their local consumers. The role of local authorities, local trade and consumers themselves should be up for debate.”

UK consumers would like to see broader range of shops (59%) and more independents (57%). They would also like experiences including markets and community events (46%) and leisure and entertainment (44%). Additionally, 45% want free Wi-Fi on the high street.

Ian Geddes continued: “It is important that high streets adapt while consumer engagement remains high. Our findings show that consumers want their high street to play a bigger role in meeting their shopping, leisure and service needs. Traditionally, the high street has been defined as a retail centre that serves the local community. However, in a shifting retail environment, it must change and offer a broader range of experiences and services in order to remain the nerve centre of a town or city; a place where people can get together.”

The high street is well positioned to thrive as it currently remains the consumers’ shopping and services destination of choice. The majority choose the high street over out-of-town retail centres and online when shopping for top-up groceries (59%), health and personal care (55%) and clothing and footwear (50%).

The high street is even more important for delivering services, coming out top in 8 out of 11 categories, including banking (58%), cafes (52%) and GP, dentists and opticians (41%). Furthermore, 61% are satisfied with the convenience it offers.

Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at Deloitte, said: “Undoubtedly, the proximity to their local high street is the number one reason why consumers choose to visit it so frequently. They want it to deliver local, immediate and guaranteed access to products.

“In addition, consumers want a wide range of services and leisure facilities. The results clearly demonstrate the variety of roles consumers expect the high street to play. High streets which maintain the right mix of shops, while offering experiences and convenience which cannot be replicated online will succeed.”

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