It is no news that high streets are facing stiff competition from online platforms and out-of-town shopping centres.

It is no news that high streets are facing stiff competition from online platforms and out-of-town shopping centres.

Recent headlines have been populated with the need to ‘save the high street’ and according to the most recent BRC figures, every UK region posted a decrease in footfall during February.

The reduced need for bricks-and-mortar stores is largely due to the exponential growth in multichannel business models over the past few years.

While this trend may be true for fashion retailers, another problem is brewing for the UK’s supermarkets. The rise of multichannel shopping and convenience stores means we could be in the midst of creating ghost towns with empty hypermarket premises.

In the same way that the internet has shrunk the required number of locations for clothing retailers on the high street, new cost-efficient delivery systems and convenience stores could impact the number of larger supermarket stores. Fast-forward 10 years and the grocery market may well be in the same position that the high street is currently in.

Most of the big grocery chains have been undertaking aggressive expansion of their convenience stores. Sainsbury’s earlier this year stated that the number of its convenience stores will overtake its supermarkets this year.

What’s more, industry body IGD says the value of the convenience sector will grow from £35.6bn in 2013 to £46.2bn by 2018. However, even though grocers recognise the growth potential of convenience stores, this could ironically be damaging the need for their out-of-town shops. So what can the big supermarkets do to counteract this potential ghost town evolution?

Out-of-town hypermarkets already price products cheaper than their convenience store counterparts, so grocers will need to look beyond pricing.  One option is to increase marketing spend on promotions in large of out-of-town stores through loyalty schemes and incentives to attract shoppers.

A second option is to bring shoppers in with other attractions such as restaurants and cinemas – making their stores leisure destinations in their own right. For example, last year, Tesco bought family-friendly restaurant chain Giraffe.

Another factor supermarkets need to be wary of is that the switch to online channels is only going to get greater – putting hypermarkets under further pressure.

This is because there is still a large part of the population which doesn’t use smartphones or tablets. Even in just 10 years’ time, a far larger proportion of the population will be smartphone-savvy, using apps to order food.

So, while physical retailing won’t die there does seem to be a ticking time bomb which all retailers, including grocers, need to address.

Dan Coen, director, Zolfo Cooper