The High Life:
What our high streets are trying to tell us?
The British high street has been a regular news feature for many years – it is a favourite symbol in our media to be held up as a barometer of the nation’s economic health. Since the UK’s EU referendum vote in June, the high street as a marker of our national prosperity has become emblematic. As unpredictable as the reception of Kate Winslet’s choice of Oscar gown, depending on which paper you read on which day of the week, the British high street can be both representatives of the country’s imminent demise or a sure sign that the UK is on the way up.
Post Brexit vote, the number of standing empty retail locations across the country has started to rise for the first time since 2012. The number of shops opening has dropped over the year which suggests a decline in the retail economy, although simultaneously shop closures have actually decreased by five percent.
Business media loves to delve into patterns such as these, but could it simply reflect the ebb and flow of the life cycle of our high streets? The British Retail Council recently released figures showing that footfall on the high street had actually risen marginally by 0.1 per cent in August 2016. The lead up to Christmas will be keenly watched by commentators and businesses alike.
In such an unpredictable and fluctuating marketplace, it is now more important than ever to optimise the footfall into your business or shop. When consumers are renowned for making a snap judgement based on visual stimuli, the signage that lines our high street is instrumental: from the handmade to boutique, to temporary, to chain stores. It’s never as simple as just hanging a sign.
Is your premises old or new? How is the frontage constructed? It could be a new-built enclosed shopping centre or old, street-side shop front. These things will dictate some of your specification.
Your choice of material will help to form the look and feel of your branding. You can utilise lighting, glass and texture to heighten the impact of your sign and brand.
This is your choice of colours, tone and graphics. These elements form your brand across your publicity and communication materials. A clear message is conveyed with essential colours and minimal extravagance.
Consider the rest of your high street. The tone of this area in a town or city changes across the face of the country. From the high profile selection of big name brands in Reading or Basingstoke to the more artisan offering of towns such as Woodstock or Farnham, you need to consider your commercial environment and how in keeping your signage is with the character of the street. Is it dominated by chain stores, or rich in independent and boutique shops? Do you want to sit in harmony with your surroundings, or rebelliously stand out? This is a subjective decision, but one that ought to be contemplated.
Modern customers head to the high street because they choose to rather than out of necessity. A day in a shopping centre is, more than ever before, a special trip so your business can capitalise on this uniqueness in ways that the internet simply can’t. What is certain is that whatever competition is to be gained from the increased level of foot fall that we will see in the run up to Christmas is only won through enticing those passing customers into your premises.