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The trouble with high street giants


Upper Clash held a roundtable breakfast meeting on Tuesday 7th March to debate the challenges faced by high street giants, and the merits of their growth strategies.

Customer habits are changing and staple high street names are adapting. Online vs Offline arguments are over. For those with a store portfolio the key considerations are what stores sell and where they’re located.

Marks and Spencer has a strategy to close 30 stores, and replace 45 clothing stores with food halls. 53 global stores will also shut. Next is seeing most of its UK growth come from the branded products it sells through its Label business, rather than its own brand. Debenhams is shifting its focus away from clothing towards beauty, gifts and dining.

Whilst these stalwarts are challenged, others such as Boohoo and Missguided are seeing rapid growth.

Our group discussion was varied. From the impact of e-commerce to service provided in store, here are just a few notes from the session:

  • It was suggested that Missguided is successful because it fills a gap in the market, not because it is an online business. It’s tone of voice, and of course product, hits a spot with the Instagram generation; e-commerce is simply a channel. It would be as successful as a high street brand because no other speaks so well to that market.
  • Working in store is no longer seen as a career, which is having an effect on customer service. It was mentioned that this is to do with salary and generational attitudes. It is a key area which lets down the overall ‘in store’ experience.
  • The rush to encourage in store shoppers to shop online, when a product is out of stock, is taking away from the natural ‘sales’ opportunity to direct the customer to another in stock product there and then. It was felt by some that this top down approach could be detrimental.