While often attributed to Napoleon, it was actually the philosopher and economist Adam Smith who first referred to Britain as “a nation of shopkeepers” in his famous 1776 work The Wealth of Nations. However, some 240 years on, is our status as a country built upon shopping coming under threat?
According to a regular survey carried out by the CBI Retail, retail sales suffered their biggest fall in more than four years during the first weeks after the EU referendum on 23 June. The issue is more far-reaching than just post-Brexit turbulence too; BDO’s monthly High Street Sales Tracker recorded its sixth successive month without growth for Britain’s retailers in July.
The current economic climate is clearly not ideal for retailers; the uncertainty caused by the EU referendum result has inevitably seen people rein in their spending habits. The high street is also facing stiff competition from online shopping, which continues to grow steadily. But it isn’t all doom and gloom – the challenge for this nation of shopkeepers is to ensure it is doing all it can to lure customers in store.
Special offers and promotional deals will always attract shoppers to bricks and mortar stores (we all love a bargain, after all), but this isn’t enough. Retailers must embrace innovation and new technologies to enhance the shopping experience, whether it’s making it easier for buyers to find items they want, or coming up ways to cut down on long queues. Finding solutions to these common problems will ensure customers continue to hit the high street rather than retreating to online channels or avoiding shopping altogether.
Britain may be a nation of shopkeepers, but it is also a nation that has always been at the forefront of innovation. By combining the two, the UK’s retail industry can evolve, modernise and deliver a quality of service that keeps their customers coming back through the doors.