Mary Portas is queen of shops, but is she queen of multichannel?

Mary Portas is queen of shops, but is she queen of multichannel? While her recent report on the high street mentioned the web and mobile, not one of the 28 recommendations referenced how they can complement the high street.

It felt like a single channel view driven by an old school retail perspective, demonstrated by the statement that “the web was one of the biggest threats to retail on our high streets”. To the contrary, for every person that buys online, around five people are researching online but will buy offline.

The recommendations lacked empathy with customer behaviour. The customer’s journey and where the high street might fit into that to make life more convenient would have been a better starting point.

To maintain relevance, retailers need to offer the customer the ability to shop how they choose. And therefore so does the high street.

Customer behaviour has changed. Being task-rich and time-poor, convenience is the driver for customers. That’s why retailers such as John Lewis are experiencing faster growth in customers reserving a product online to collect in-store than buying online for home delivery. And it’s also the driver for the rise in sales through smartphones.

This said, I agree with some points, including the good idea of implementing ‘town teams’ getting town centres working like businesses. Here are a few of my thoughts on how the high street, web and mobile can complement each other.

Local councils could support independent retailers by providing websites with promotional capability, they could subsidise pick-up points in high streets where customers can select to have online orders collected, pure-play pop-ups could help landlords fill empty stores, councils and landlords could provide cheap solutions for retailers to implement virtual shopping walls such as Ocado in London.

I agree with Mary when she said “those who see high streets purely as a commercial retail mix need to think again”. However, without the high street being part of a cross channel solution, the customer will choose to shop elsewhere.

  • Martin Newman, Founder and chief executive, Practicology