By Colin Munro - MD - Miconex
2020 has been the most unusual, extraordinary and difficult year for businesses. Covid-19 has accelerated trends that were already impacting on our high streets. Our goal at Miconex is to drive local economic recovery through gift cards and to encourage people to shop local. We’ve introduced 17 new Town & City Gift Cards this year, taking our total number of gift card programmes to more than 50.
We have a good understanding into some of the challenges and opportunities facing places.
Here are the trends of 2020 and the way forward for our high streets.
- Online shopping sales have spiked as people who have never shopped online before were forced to do so. It seems that we read daily of another national retailer struggling, or worse, disappearing altogether from the high street. It’s hard to argue against online shopping feeling safer, offering choice and appearing cheaper, leading to conclusions that there are even tougher times ahead for our town and city centres.
- We have seen resilience, strength and adaptability from businesses and the places that support them, and we have watched as local communities have pulled together through continuing restrictions. When we needed them most, it was local businesses that were there for us. Delivering fruit and vegetable boxes when we couldn’t get to the shops, offering personalised gifting so we could still celebrate family birthdays even though we were apart, and a thousand other innovations that have enabled us to go on living and enjoying life as we want to.
- Positivity towards local communities. The adaptations we’ve seen from small businesses this year have been humbling to watch. People are protecting their livelihoods in every way they can, making a living but also learning how they can support and serve their communities in ways they would never have considered or imagined necessary pre-2020. From Friday night cocktails and takeaway Sunday lunch to drive-in cinemas and new outfits selected via WhatsApp and delivered to your door, the innovation and inventiveness are to be applauded.
And we want to reward it too. The massive wave of positivity towards our local communities is another trend of 2020, and one that we can harness for the benefit of strengthening our high streets.
- Radical changes to commuting patterns have seen people used to living and working in different places now working from home, finally beginning to explore their doorstep, finding new favourite businesses and taking the time to engage with shop local campaigns. There is a dawning realisation that we all play a part in how successful our local town or city is, and our actions have a real impact on whether local businesses survive 2020 or not. This change in lifestyle and buying behaviour has alsoenabled us to see through the veil of the big brands, recognising that, whilst it’s a larger retailer in your town or city, local people staff it.
Now more than ever, business communities large and small, need to work together to create a cohesive plan for locals. By working with place managers, businesses can give customers an attractive proposition with a focus on service, safety, choice and an unbeatable overall experience. People want to live in vibrant, welcoming places full of exciting options.
We have an opportunity to reset the relationship between customers, places, businesses and employees. The shop local sentiment is strong; it is down to us to harness it and make it work for the evolution of the high street.
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