UK shopkeepers must embrace technology if they want to keep ahead of competition and stay relevant, says the newly formed the Future High Streets Forum (FHSF), a business, analysis and political panel.
The FHSF held its first meeting at the end of last week and immediately set up a further group Digital High Streets Advisory Board, which aims to link together businesses and technology. Chairman of the working group and chief executive of Home Retail Group, John Walden, said retailers are making good efforts and initiatives already, but they rarely connect with each other.
"There are a number of digital-related high street initiatives, both in the public sector and private sector, but there is often little, if any, linkage between them. This board will take information from successful pilots and examples of good practice, and seek to apply it to a broader national strategy," he said.
"It is absolutely imperative a national digital strategy for high streets is built around flexibility – so that it can adapt to changing consumer demand, and play a key role in the increasing desire of residents and visitors to access leisure, social and cultural experiences when they visit town and city centres."
FSFH chair and UK High Streets minister Brandon Lewis said he expected Walden to boost town centres and reward their visitors. "The rise of online retail means Britain's shoppers are changing their habits and high streets need to adapt to continue to prosper," he said.
Apps and other digital technologies can bring communities closer to the range of services good town centres offer or reward people for coming into town."
The end result should be a best practice guide for businesses.
It comes amid many closures of traditional high-street stores like HMV and Blockbusters, after they struggled to keep pace with the changing face of retail led by web giants such as Amazon.
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