The rise of the virtual marketplace: BHS is just the latest casualty of the high street

Over the last decade retail space has been totally transformed. Gone is a pre-internet dependency on tangible high street stores where we would go to try on or view a product. Instead a steadily increasing number of shoppers buy some or all of their consumer goods (from food to fashion to furniture) on-line from the comfort of their own homes. And in so doing it has spelled the doom of many high street stores, the latest casualty of which is the formerly stalwart bastion of British clothing and goods; namely BHS (British Homestores). It might come as a relief to its loyal customers that the bankrupt BHS is resurrecting itself as a solely on-line shopping space, but it is little comfort I imagine to the 11,000 employees who have lost their jobs: BHS re-launch

Whether focusing on on-line sales will salvage BHS remains to be seen. I suspect the fault lies with product marketing rather than the retail strategy but my concern is far less for the pockets of the board of directors than with its now jobless employees who may have to look for employment in a different service sector entirely.

For retail space is changing. While some products are always going to be bought in person others, like video rentals, will only be purchased on-line (think of Blockbusters which used to be a high-street fixture until it was wiped out by on-line video rental services such as Amazon and Netflix). But while on-line shopping may be the future focus of the retail industry it does not necessarily spell the end of the high street as we know it. A strong ‘buy local’ movement is building in our towns and villages to promote smaller businesses and almost all large retail companies bridge the gap by offering on-line options as well as in-store products. Like so many shifts in industry, we must evolve and change or risk falling behind and ultimately losing out.

Like BHS.

 

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