The diversity energising and revitalising our high streets

Undoubtedly there has been some fairly grim news from some of our retail stalwarts in recent weeks. However, we at Caulder Moore are convinced there are many reasons to believe that a revitalisation, and arguably, resetting of our high streets will emerge, a sea change that will offer greater diversity, richness, colour, variety and interest than what has gone before.

So, let’s look at some overall trends as well as looking at who some of these new entrants are…

Evidently a positive outcome will be a more realistic, flexible response from landlords, which will allow smaller, growing and emerging brands an opportunity to grow and expand.

One brand on the expansion trail, is Beleaf, opening a site in Chiswick. The medicinal cannabis retailer already has one store in Soho, but taking a site in a local neighbourhood where the managing director, Marcus Fox, reinforces his desire to behave as a ‘local store’, where people will come in to find out more, and chat to experts about the health benefits of CBD. Interestingly, the store will also have a ‘blends bar’ with fresh juices and a lounge area.

Banya No. 1 in Hoxton is also expanding, bringing their brand of wellness to West London. A concept that combines a wellness experience, a unique destination, as well as a complimentary hospitality offer of not only kombucha teas, but also vodka fuelled social gatherings to complete a cultural, social, as well as wellness experience.

Philip Neal, a chocolatier, is expanding his local store to incorporate specialist coffees, and a lounge area, where customers can enjoy and experience exclusive chocolates and coffees, which will be premium priced, but satisfy a desire to discover new taste experiences.

Matthew Jones of Bread Ahead is opening a bakery store and school in Chiswick as its first opening as part of a new strategy to focus on residential neighbourhoods in response to many more people shopping locally as a result of the shift to home working.

These models integrate some type of hospitality, which again, not only is helpful in increasing dwell time, but provides other reasons to visit.

Wellness, food, and health are clear winners, but also, being a specialist, going deep and narrow seems also to be pertinent and relevant, when maybe too much generalism has given us too much of the same…

Equally, being a specialist, informed, and expert retailer does not only deliver a strong, valuable competitive advantage, it also makes it so much harder for would be competitors to imitate or copy.

In food, last year’s apprentice winner, Carina Lepore, owner of Dough Artisan Bakehouse is putting her £250,000 winnings into expanding her brand, and is actively looking for locations beyond her base of Herne Hill.

Some of the emerging concepts have a strong seasonal dimension, which creates an even greater gravitational pull, Loewes’ pop up Paula’s Ibiza boutiques are only present for the summer months, allowing the experience to truly capture a moment, allowing customers to indulge their escapist, hedonistic island fantasies, and again, enhance desirability and destination status.

This is only one example of a larger business, investing in a smaller niche brand to complement their own, to add a new dimension and edge, fun, celebrate and capture a 'moment' in a creative, emotionally engaging way. Jonathan Anderson, Loewe’s artistic director talks about the initiative as being a result of rethinking how to build a brand,

With PepsiCo investing in alt milk and cereal business, Rude Health, who have currently one location, it is evident that larger businesses need the entrepreneurial fuel, innovation, agility and fresh ideas that larger corporations simply cannot seem to generate on their own.  Rude Health’s owners Camila and Nick Barnard will remain in control of protecting the integrity and ethos of their brand, but with backing to now expand the business beyond their Putney base and experiment with new formats and ideas.

Many of these businesses conform to an asset light model, strong brands, underpinned by a clear sense of purpose and focus.

Other global brands are exploring smaller, nimbler neighbourhood concepts where they can offer their customers a more personalised, intimate experience.

News that Nike is going to open between 150-200 smaller stores based on their Nike Live concept trialled in Melrose, which champions the idea of localising and tailoring to the local neighbourhood and community.

With many more of us working from home, these neighbourhood-focused concepts seem more relevant than ever, particularly amongst Gen Z’s, who, apart from their preference for shopping in physical spaces, also with the decline in car ownership amongst this demographic, have an increasing desire to shop locally.

It seems like both small, emerging brands, including those benefiting from external investment, as well as established global brands will all be important agents of change in revitalising our local neighbourhoods and high streets.

Cover photo credit (Unsplash):  Kevin Schmid