The technology behind Down Your High Street's indie quest

It’s been an important 12 months for Down Your High Street (DYHS), the online marketplace helping independent retailers with stores sell via the web.

Earlier this year the company secured a £262,000 investment to help it develop its platform and create the marketing buzz it believes is required to scale further in the months ahead. It also brought in Keith Hamilton as chief operating officer, who brings with him significant experience from his time in area and regional manager roles at Superdrug and Marks & Spencer, and as head of eCommerce at Wickes.

In addition, DYHS has finalised several core technology and service tie-ups that its independent retail partners can utilise to boost their own online presence and secure sales that might otherwise have gone to a chain store or online pureplay.

And figures from Local Data Company (LDC), a research group that tracks the state of the UK high street, suggest retailers are in need of all the support they can get.

Rising business rates, growth of online rivals, and changing consumer habits are just a selection of factors contributing to 2018 UK store openings slowing to a five-year low of 43,278. LDC also recorded the highest ever rate of closures, 50,828, resulting in a net loss of 7,550 occupied units.

DYHS’s mission is to help independents that already have a physical presence optimise their premises by raising awareness of them online and providing a complimentary sales channel, while also driving traffic to shops via click & collect and geo-targeted marketing.

The model

The marketplace already has over 650 independent UK retailers on its site, and it takes a 15% share of each sale made through DYHS. The business’s co-founder, Daniel Whytock, believes DYHS is well positioned to digitise the wider indie retail sector in the years ahead, and help smaller firms compete with their larger and digital counterparts.

“There’s been a churning process and the retailers that failed to adapt to the digital era have fallen by the wayside or they’ve reduced their store numbers because they don’t need the square footage,” he explains.

“But the dip we’ve gone through has brought out a huge love for the high street and appreciation for independent retail – I expect there will be a growing number of people shopping at indie retailers over time.”

Whytock is not just crossing his fingers and relying on sentiment to boost the UK’s high streets again – he is aware successful retailers must have a point of difference and excite the general public. And wider changes in society, such as the growing need for affordable housing and mixed-use developments in communities, will clearly continue to impact the volume of retail stores required in towns and cities.

But with its involvement in initiatives such as the Great British High Street Awards, its partnership with the British Independent Retail Association, and a raft of new collaborations, DYHS is certainly taking some active measures to help the sector.

Buy now, pay later

DYHS, which was established in 2013, has a longstanding payment wallet partnership with Adyen, but it has recently added buy now, pay later solutions provider Clearpay to its checkout options.

The demand for such payment platforms in UK retail is buoyant, with Klarna and Laybuy working with large retailers primarily in the fashion space. By choosing to work with another player in that market, Clearpay – which only launched in the UK this summer thanks to partnerships with Urban Outfitters and Boohoo’s house of brands – DYHS is helping indies benefit from some of the wider high street’s most sought-after tools.

“We are arming the high street with the option of offering customers to pay in four instalments, with 0% interest,” says Whytock.

“It’s usually difficult for indies to take advantage of these things because they don’t want to take on the risk – but, here, Clearpay holds the risk and the retailer still gets paid.”

Delivery and in-store technology

Partnerships with point of sale (PoS) software provider Vend and logistics company Hermes are also proving mutually beneficial, he says.

DYHS retailers can gain cost savings on the implementation of Vend POS and favourable fulfilment rates with Hermes, which will collect online orders from participating stores and deliver to customers. It circumnavigates a previously manual process for indies, involving staff trips to the Post Office to deliver parcels.

“It’s another example of that disconnect between physical and online – when retailers have to keep marching out to the Post Office to post goods,” notes Whytock.

“Imagine every time a company sold something online, they had to shut down the website for 20 minutes!”

An Ideal partnership?

By the final quarter of 2019, Whytock expects a new partnership between TV shopping channel Ideal World and DYHS to have started. The terms are being finalised, but Ideal World will feature the marketplace’s independent retailers on TV each week.

As part of the arrangement individual retailers should get more nationwide exposure, while Ideal World will showcase unique products targeted at its key demographic, and DYHS’s brand and sales stand to grow. That’s the goal for Whytock.

“With our retailers and Ideal World TV, we have this full ecosystem that protects us from changes in consumer shopping habits,” he adds, explaining the benefits of creating a business model comprising bricks and mortar, digital, and TV shopping.

DYHS’s first mobile app will arrive in time for Christmas 2019, too, and the plan is for geo-location elements to be built in that enable users to receive push notifications when near a partner store. It might encourage them to visit with a special offer or an offer of a free coffee – retailers can use the marketing technology how they wish.

There could also be a physical manifestation of DYHS in pop-up market form in the build-up to the festive season as the company’s marketing ramps up, with senior directors contemplating running a Christmas market style event.

Amid all the changes, it is a new website providing the basis for DYHS’s growth plans. It launched in August, featuring a higher degree of automation and a more straightforward process for linking eCommerce and inventory feeds from its retail partners.

“It’s allowing us to scale and we’ve started accumulating more traffic in a day than we used to get in one week because of the stickiness of the platform,” Whytock notes.

“There are more entry points and products, so people are purchasing more.”

For DYHS's business growth plans, its independent retail partners, and UK communities looking to foster growth in independent retail that can only be positive news.