Livingbridge, in partnership with MBS, recently hosted their Brand Leaders event where speakers including Mary Portas discussed the future of the British high street.
The best discussions are often also the most contentious! It’s no surprise that when you bring together some of the most successful and visionary executives from the worlds of retail and private equity fireworks ensue. Our theme, ‘The High Street is Dead: Long Live The High Street’ was intentionally provocative, a starting point for conversations that ranged up and down the challenges and opportunities that currently face the sector, from the rise of the millennial pound to the unstoppable encroachment of technology on every aspect of the shopping experience.
Mark Advani, partner at Livingbridge, opened with an A to Z of the retail businesses that have gone bust over the past fifty years, from Athena and Dewhurst Butchers (which at one point had 1400 stores across the UK) to What Every Woman Wants and Woolworths. Many brands brought back fond memories and nostalgic smiles but many more elicited a blank stare or two. The point was twofold – first, that retail has always existed in a state of creative destruction.
The high street is ever-changing, and though retail’s current troubles may feel particularly acute, ‘it has ever been thus.’ Second, that brands fail because they fail to be brands. Many of the retailers listed were forgotten precisely because they were forgettable – just as the sector has always existed in a constant state of flux, the first rule of retail – to connect with the customer – continues to be its most important. The lessons of yesterday remain the lessons of today. Retail businesses will survive and thrive based on their ability to forge relationships with consumers.