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High street shops need to catch up with “digitally savvy" shoppers

The UK high street could increase footfall and gain billions of pounds in additional revenue if it chooses to make the most of the latest digital technology.

This is according to the government-initiated Digital High Street Report 2020 that claims to have found that local businesses and independent traders are missing a trick by not keeping up with the “digitally savvy modern shopper” and using more free and low-cost digital technologies.

In response to this finding, the document recommends the creation of a new high street ‘laboratory’ which would provide a one-stop-shop where small shopkeepers, businesses and communities can get advice on what they need to do to get digital.

The report makes a number of other recommendations that intend to support town centres in becoming more thriving places people want to visit, work and shop in.

The government’s Future High Streets Forum, which advises government on the challenging facing the UK’s high streets, has also played a large part in the research.

John Walden, chief executive of Argos-owning firm Home Retail Group and member of the Forum, has recommended the following:

  • a UK High Street Digital Health Index that would act as an interactive benchmark to assess how “digitally healthy” towns and councils across the UK are
  • plans for town centre infrastructure and connectivity for 2020 and beyond including broadband, mobile and wi-fi
  • a goal to eliminate the gap in basic digital skills by 2020 for individuals, small businesses and charities.

Digital “Way Forward”

“High streets contribute billions of pounds to the economy and we know digital is the way forward so it is vitally important traders and town centres keep up with the way people shop if they are to continue to thrive,” claimed High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt.

“The new digital laboratory is one idea that could ensure small businesses have the tools and skills they need to compete with the big players.

“We want to future proof our high streets so they can remain at the heart of the community for decades to come,” she added.

Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey also welcomed the publication of the report and the recommendations contained within.

“I welcome the world of the Digital High Street Board and the leadership of John Walden in compiling this report," Vaizey claimed.

“There is no doubting the importance of thriving high streets to the economic health of towns and villages throughout the UK. I am convinced technology can play a part in helping make high streets more relevant and accessible in today’s and future modern high streets.

“This report is an important contribution to considering how best to ensure a bright future for the UK’s fast changing high streets,” he added.