A long-standing salon insurance customer of Salon Gold, Hellen Ward shares her concerns on the fall of high street retail and what this could mean for salons.
The news that House of Fraser are to close 31 stores is disheartening. Sadly, the retail sector of our economy seems to continue to be in crisis, with many household names just failing to make a profit – Toys’R’Us, Mothercare, BHS, C&A – the list of casualties seems to be growing. The resulting job losses are terrible news for those concerned and the country as a whole. House of Fraser is particularly close to my heart as I worked for a company they had their in-store concession business from leaving school until I started my own company – it’s so sad to think they no longer exist. Of course, before they were part of the House of Fraser group they were department stores all individual to the towns they served – Kendals, Manchester, Rackhams, Birmingham and Jenners, Edinburgh to name but a few – that were later re-branded under the HofF banner.
But for salon owners, it paints a scary vision of the future of the great British high street. We may think we are future-proof, safe in the knowledge that until a pair of hands can come out of a computer screen to blow dry, cut, colour hair or paint nails, we’re secure in our offering – but are we? Surely these closures will affect us. Empty high streets mean decreased footfall, and that in turn means less potential new customers to appeal to. As much as the key to creating a sustainable salon business is client retention, we all need a slow and steady trickle of new business to replace the natural decline in existing customers that we all face, regardless of how ‘on it’ we are.
What will happen to the gaping holes these huge stores will leave? Not just in terms of the retail offering but in their physical presence? Greedy landlords and increased business rates have played a massive part in their downfall, but it’s online retail that’s been the final nail in the coffin for bricks and mortar retailers.
I can see a time in the future where we come full circle. The once buzzy department stores and graveyard retail outlets will become showrooms for the online giants – after all, they’ll be the only ones who can afford to inhabit them. The generation z (because we are talking past millennials here) will find the concept of a shop a novelty; ‘Wow! You can actually go into a place and see things for real!’ They’ll say. ‘You can touch them! Pick them up! Buy them there and then! Take them home! You won’t have to wait for a delivery!’
And back we will go to bricks and mortar retailing. It probably won’t be in my lifetime, but if you buried this article in a time-capsule I can see it happening… after all, everything is cyclical. E-commerce will become reality retail again. If you think I’m being dramatic, just remember that Amazon in Seattle has opened a brick and mortar retail unit. And they won’t stop at Seattle.
I attended a recent conference where it was suggested, in the years to come, human beings won’t know how to pro-create any more because every experience they will cherish will be virtual reality, not real life. One thing is for sure, we all need a wake-up call to ensure our precious high streets remain. Wandering down a lovely high street of independent retail units need not be a thing of the past. It’s a lifeline to many lonely pensioners who often don’t get to speak to anyone all day except when they nip out for a coffee or to buy a paper. How sad if that’s lost. How greatly it will affect us all.