What does the state of the high street tell hospice retail?

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Elizabeth Palfreman, Hospice UK’s Head of Hospice Support, writes about the state of the high street and which shops are thriving in the current climate.

Recently I attended a retail briefing held by a leading accountancy practice and there was a fascinating session from a high street retail analyst.  Yes, there was doom and gloom but amongst all of that were some statistics that present opportunities for hospice retailers.

It is anticipated that by 2023 one in four shopping £s will be spent online, but that still leaves three of four spent in physical shops. In addition, the online spend includes grocery shopping, so do not write off the high street just yet.  Some online retailers are now opening physical stores – Boden for example have opened 22 stores after years of being mail order/online only. Even the mighty Amazon has opened more than 500 stores in the US, mainly food but there are bookshops as well, and it is set to open a store in London this summer.

These retailers have realised that they are missing a chunk of customers who want to physically shop as well as buy online. There is also an argument that the cost, both financial and environmental of sending packages is starting to hurt as customers are demanding free delivery/returns and are worried about plastic wrapping.

With 55 per cent of UK online shoppers using third party pick-up and delivery services, are charity shops missing a trick by not becoming an agent for say, Hermes? If people were coming in to pick up a parcel, would they buy something from you at the same time?

The growth of making purchases on mobiles continues to grow. Is your website mobile- friendly and can you take Apple Pay?  The British Heart Foundation gave a talk at the 2017 Hospice Retail Conference about their centralised eBay operation. In 2017 it took £2m. In 2018 it had doubled to £4m.  The scale of their operation is huge, but what stops hospices working together to share the costs and economies of scale to set up a similar venture on say, a regional basis?

Among the Christmas winners on the high street were Hobbycraft, corporate supporters of Together for Short Lives. Physical sales were up 7 per cent in the six weeks to Christmas, supported by events in store to show how to use their craft products.  What could you do to make your shops a retail destination? Knitting workshops for all the wool I see in store, how to do alterations, upcycle furniture?

The message from the seminar is yes, it is gloomy on the high street, but the stores that are still doing well are those that:

  • Have integrated on and offline presence
  • Offer premium ranges e.g. Tesco Finest – ‘a little bit of luxury’
  • Are known for bargain prices
  • Offer a retail experience: ‘Online is transactional, physical shopping is emotional’

All of these topics and more will be discussed at the Hospice UK Retail Conference, ‘The theatre and drama of Hospice Retail,  April 11. To see the programme and book your place please click here , one purchase a hospice retailer should definitely make.