Image: Scillystuff Image: Scillystuff

It’s estimated that nearly half of all high street shops will close between 2020 and 2030, with ecommerce accounting for 40 per cent of all UK retail sales, according to ParcelHero. And with one in seven shops currently boarded up and 15 more closing every day, is the high street finally dead?Not at all – says Jonnie Matthew, founder of footwear brand Solillas. Here he offers four reasons he believes the High Street is still very much alive and kicking:

Some sectors are not struggling; the high street is growing for outlets like coffee shops, takeaway food, other leisure-related shops and fashion. The High Street is far from dead and will remain essential for start-up brands, particularly in the fashion sector:

  1. Breaking through

Brands give retailers a marketing budget – whether they sell online or on the high street. Ecommerce sites, however, charge a lot more for their prime advertising positions, whereas in-store is a much more level playing field.

This means that new brands can gain more visibility for their products in-store than online, helping toward the essential first purchase. Without that visibility, new brands will struggle to break through into the mainstream as they will always have a smaller marketing budget than the big, established players.

  1. Trying it on
When a customer purchases from a new brand for the first time, they’ll need to know that the product is high quality and will meet their needs. They’ll want to see the range of colour and size options rather than relying on edited product shots.

Some retailers, such as ASOS, are using free delivery and returns to get around the issue of trying before you buy, but most retailers don’t have the resources or capacity to match these generous delivery options just yet, making high street retail an essential step for most fashion purchases.

  1. Building trust
Another reason brands won’t abandon the high street is the powerful effect associating with established retailers can have, especially for new start-ups. Brands can be treated with scepticism if they are unknown and untested. Online, the situation is even more challenging.

Often you don’t know whether the website you are purchasing from is even legitimate, you have few guarantees that the product will be as advertised, or that you will even receive the item if the delivery goes wrong.

It’s much harder to pack-up shop and move to a different physical location, meaning high street shops have a greater investment in their brand. Because of this, high street shops come with a sense of trust that ecommerce sites struggle to replicate.

New or relatively unknown brands can benefit greatly from the association with a bigger, established, and trusted high street brand. Customers know that if they go to John Lewis, for example, the products on offer will have been tried and tested for quality by John Lewis buyers. The product isn’t likely to break or fall apart easily, and if it does, you can always take it back to the shop.

  1. Getting feedback
Feedback is essential for most brands. Not only does it help you improve, it connects you with what your customers actually want. As a footwear brand, we find this feedback invaluable to our design process and wouldn’t have found the success we have without it.

For example, we meet with retailer, Office, to find out what customers have been saying about our products on the shop floor. We often hear things like: “they would love it in this colour”, or “it would be perfect if it has a buckle”, and we integrate that feedback into our design process, creating new products in a matter of months.

Only on the high street can you access such rapid and in-depth feedback – making the high street essential for the development of new, exciting trends.


Jonnie Matthew is founder of Solillas known for its bohemian update on a traditional Spanish leather sandal, crafted in the Balearic Islands.