In recent months we have seen an almost constant stream of bad news from the High Street as major chains such as Comet, Jessops & HMV have entered administration and even ceased to exist altogether. It is certainly true that today retailers in the UK are operating in very difficult market conditions having to cope with the price of leases, overall reductions in footfall and the competition offered by online shopping.
As consumers become more and more aware of the threat to their favourite High Street stores, ICM Research thought that it would be interesting to find out which retailers consumers would miss the most if they ceased to exist. We presented them with a list of big names that are on many High Streets across the UK, and asked them to choose the one they would miss the most. Here are the headlines:
- 1 in 4 consumers would miss Marks & Spencer
- A similar proportion said they would miss Argos
- 1 in 7 would miss Boots (women in particular)
- 1 in 7 18-24 year olds would miss New Look
- Only a small percentage (7%) couldn’t think of one retailer they would miss
M&S and Argos:
Whilst at face-value, it would appear that M&S and Argos are the winners here it is interesting to look at their scores by the age of the respondent:
Very clearly here we can see that whilst Argos would be missed by almost all age groups to a certain degree, M&S has a very heavy bias towards people aged 55 and over. Of most concern for M&S must be the lower scores amongst those who are most likely to be at the family life stage (i.e. those aged 25-44). Does this suggest a longer term problem for M&S as their appeal isn’t being translated from one generation to the next?
Boots sits in third place and mirroring their customer profile would be missed mostly by women.
There is also an age bias towards the older age groups highlighting the heritage of the brand but unlike with M&S, there isn’t a large dip amongst the youngest age groups.
Amongst the youngest consumers (those aged 18-24) the mix of stores they would miss is quite different. Perhaps unsurprisingly, fashion retailers seem to be far more important to this group and this is reflected in the fact that New Look is the No.1 retailer they would miss if it closed. Topman/Topshop and H&M are also higher up the ranking whilst as we have seen, M&S falls quite considerably.
Who should come back from the dead?
As well as asking consumers hypothetically who they would miss from the High Street, we also asked who they miss the most from those who have already gone or might go in the coming months.
- 1 in 3 people miss having a Woolworths on the High Street
- 1 in 7 would miss having a HMV around
- 1 in 10 miss Comet
The results for Woolworths, 4 years after it closed, are striking. Does this show that no other store has really taken on the mantel that Woolworths offered on the High Street?
If we look at the results across different demographic groups, we can see that whilst women are more likely to mention Woolworths than men, there is a broad consensus across the age groups that Woolworths is the key retailer they would like to see back.
At face value, the results for HMV are encouraging. One in seven consumers would miss the brand if it left the High Street, and if we look at this split by age, we can see that it’s the youngest consumers who are most likely to say this. A quarter of all 18-34 year olds say that they would miss HMV if it leaves the High Street. Surely this bodes well for any group that takes on the stricken retailer in the next few months?
It is also interesting to see that men would miss HMV more than women. This throws up a few questions. Is this indicative of why HMV hasn’t performed so well in recent years in that the store look & feel and format is not appealing to female customers? Or is it that men are thinking about their use of HMV as a ‘safe haven’ on the High Street where they can browse and waste time whilst their partners shop? These are questions that any new owner of HMV needs to ponder in the coming months.
If we take the results shown here at face value, we could argue that there is life left in the High Street after all. The vast majority of consumers can pick a retailer they would miss if it closed down, and four-fifths would like one of those that have already gone to come back. However, we have seen many times that what consumers feel about a subject often doesn’t translate into behaviour. The shift away from the High Street to online is real and will continue to exist. The future of the High Street will therefore depend on retailers keeping their bricks & mortar offer relevant enough to drive shoppers to their stores.
Nathan Bartlett – Research Director, ICM
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ICM interviewed a random sample of 2,035 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 23rd-25th Jan 2013. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.