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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Simon

Retail and the pandemic. A trend acceleration...

Wrapping up Retail and the Pandemic series with some closing thoughts.. 📈 ✍


The needs and wants of the Consumer has been changing rapidly across the last 5 years in particular. And we have seen the impact of this start to play out across our High Streets. Legacy and middle market retail in particular, has struggled with the pace of that change.

And then came a Pandemic...

And those trends really accelerated!

Here are a few of the key trends that we have seen starting to really ramp up in their play across our High Streets.

1. A much speedier shift towards Digital.

A huge number of retailers have now, or are now - building a Website business to compliment & supplement their Stores.

  • From a consumer behaviour point of view - quite a lot of grocery purchasing, as well as perceived functional purchasing has moved online.  

  • The mindset shift towards digital is also very key - for many SME retail business owners. This happened very quickly - due to the lock down in March, April, May.

  • The Trading Online Voucher support has been invaluable to small business. It has helped countless Independent Retail Businesses make their first moves towards digital.

  • It’s important to note that further help & supports will be needed here. To adapt and balance new eCommerce elements of their business alongside the demands of bricks and mortar retail. This will be no mean feat, on the lean resources of the average SME Retail business.

2. A dynamic shift in power - from central to local retail. 

Local High Streets are regaining ground due to the shift in population away from commuting.

This will have an impact on larger office and retail centres i.e. many of our major City Centres.

For example - Dublin Grafton St may be quieter for some time. This is due to the double whammy impact of a drop in business commuters, alongside a drop in tourists. From an Irish perspective, Grafton St has been dubbed by some as the covid business impact 'epi-centre' - with at least a dozen empty units along this previous prime real estate.

However - whilst Grafton St in Dublin will likely be quieter - Rathmines, Ranelagh etc may see more buoyant trading and increased local footfall as more of us now work ( & spend!) closer to home.

This also presents a huge opportunity for key commuter routes and larger commuter towns and conurbations on the main artery routes to our major cities. 

In fact - This dynamic shift actually presents local and SME retail business with their greatest opportunity in generations! 

It’s important that they galvanise and exploit this fully!

3. Brexit is impacting ..earlier than expected

Under the cover of Covid, it’s my belief that we are also starting to see some Brexit strategy play out. 

We have already seen some UK retail exit Ireland, giving Covid-19 as reasoning. And whilst most of this is entirely legitimate and due to difficult trading - there are also some strategic plays happening. For example - where a retailer may have moved all product back to the uk during the initial weeks of the pandemic. (and then announced a pre pack administration & Irish liquidation several months later..)

In addition - the impact on trading from the current crisis is driving some legacy retailers to review their estates in Ireland ahead of Brexit. The coming weeks and months will bring further casualties within the middle market. And whilst many UK retailers saw Ireland as a cash cow during the 90’s - we will unfortunately and likely see more of these businesses retreat ahead of Brexit.

Much of how High Street retail will play out - depends on how well we can adapt in this fast changing landscape.

Now more than ever - A more collaborative approach is needed. We need to re-imagine and redesign how we can use our major business and retail areas within our Cities.

Alongside this, we need to support our artery routes and our local conurbations and High Streets to enable them to flourish whilst there is so much opportunity for local business.

This is a long range project and needs long range thinking.

Time to move from crisis management to a cohesive strategy that will support Retail - wherever it's location - be it City, Town, Bricks & Mortar or Digital !

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