Retailers must 'go back 400 years' to save the High Street

High Street retailers will have to go back 400 years to save themselves, according to a report from Metro Bank.

The report outlines a desire among shoppers for more face-to-face contact and micro communities, which has been accelerated by the pandemic.

“This will drive us towards a high street that mirrors that of the Stuart period in the 1600s – but paired with modern technology that takes the hyper local to new heights,” says the Back to the Future report.

In order to thrive again, it says, towns and cities will need to revert to micro High Streets, with small shops set up in residential backstreets and alleys to form “villages” like those of the 1600s.

Every village will have their own stores, all of which will include the name of the neighbourhood on their shopfronts. Shopkeepers – aided by “subtle tech” – will also get to know every customer by sight, including their name, in order to provide a more personalised experience.

This is something that 64 per cent of the public are keen to see happen, according to Metro's research among 2,000 UK adults. Over 90 per cent think the world would be a “nicer place” if there were more face-to-face interactions.

As was the case centuries ago, many streets will have their own distinctive commercial theme – “one may be a thriving hub for jewellery, another for cycling gear”, the report says. Inspired by Etsy and eBay, more of us will also turn into artisans, selling goods and produce “from honey to handmade hats” either “out of our houses, door-to-door or in local makers’ markets”.

Micro-payment apps will allow the smallest trader to succeed. We’ll even drop our broken products round to skilled neighbours to repair, or lend our car out to locals via a community car club, the report adds.

Consumer Futurist Will Higham says of the report: “Britons’ renewed love of community is one of the biggest trends we’ve seen in the last ten years, especially with the boost it’s been given by lockdown. Anxiety around our globalised world is making Britons look back at the way communities used to live with renewed interest.

“It’s not a Luddite rejection of technology though, innovations like AI and e-commerce can actually help bring communities closer together.”

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