My Column

High street needs ways to sell itself

  • Date: Tuesday 24th December 2019
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With only two days to go before the big day, many of us will be frantically snapping up last minute Christmas gifts for friends and family.

Unfortunately, the story isn’t so rosy for the nation’s flagging retailers as Christmas sales slumped over November in the weakest period for consumer spending in more than a year. It seems shoppers more and more and abandoning the high street for the convenience and value of online shopping.

The latest figures suggest even heavy discounting around Black Friday failed to tempt consumers to part with their cash in one of the worst periods for retailers in recent decades. Hardly surprising given the Brexit debacle and snap election creating economic uncertainty, but a worrying decline all the same.

The last few years have seen the retail discount window shift, with the traditional Boxing Day sales being replaced by a longer discount period throughout December, often kicking off with the American Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

This year desperate retailers are running their deepest ever pre-Christmas discount as they chase a slice of the nation’s £82billion festive shopping market. Average discounts this year are running at 43 per cent but could top 50 per cent by Christmas Eve. 

2019 has been a difficult year for retailers, with a record number of high street businesses closing down or moving online. Big name casualties have included staples such as Mothercare, Patisserie Valerie, Karen Millen and its subsidiary Cost. Only this month high street staple Clarks axed 170 jobs just weeks before Christmas. 

For brands to stave off the decline of the high street, they need to offer something shoppers can’t get online – ‘shoppertainment’. We’ve already seen the likes of John Lewis and Waitrose promising to offer ‘experience playgrounds’ where shoppers can home their barista or pasta making skills or hang out in a rooftop orchard and farm shop. These are encouraging signs for things to come and hopefully signalling some light at the end of this retail gloom tunnel.

Given the uncertainly around the high street I was pleased to read some sound advice from Thorntons Solicitors and Estate Agents, who warned against the dangers of opting for gift cards this Christmas. Interesting to read the legal implications of buying these vouchers, which can leave you with nothing more than a festive-themed piece of paper of plastic card should the store enter into formal insolvency. Best to stick to cash inside a card should you be struggling to think of what gift this Christmas!

So if you’ve been holding out for the best deals it’s now or never. To make sure you get the best products and the best price I would advise setting a budget and sticking to it. It can be easy to get swept up in the deal frenzy.

If you are looking to bag a Boxing Day bargain, then do check out the opening times for stores as many open at the crack of dawn, this should also help avoid the dreaded experience of trying to find a car parking space. As they say the early bird catches the worm.

If online shopping is more your bag then do set up online accounts at your target stores beforehand. Having your payment and delivery details already in place will make online shopping easier and quicker. This is especially important for big e-commerce platforms like Amazon where the best deals will sell out fast.

Keeping up to date with your favourite brands is another trick. I would suggest following their social media channels, signing up to newsletters and downloading their apps, all are handy for regular updates, discount codes and often access to exclusive discounts before anyone else,

Savvy retailers will try and entice us with big deal announcements but do remember to shop around. This can be done quickly on the ‘shopping’ tab on your phone or by using a price comparison sight like My Supermarket.

It’s also worth bearing in mind which items you should focus on buying first. Tech, furniture and big ticket items tend to have limited stock so get in their quick. Clothing items and home accessories tend to sell out fast but are often restocked throughout the sale period. 

If you’re still on the hunt for a deal, whether on the high street or online, do get in their quick but read the small print and only buy if you really want the item – that is where the real deals are to be made. Happy Christmas.

 

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Side

I was delighted to read the news that the Glasgow International Piping Festival generated over £2m for the economy this year.

This is a fantastic result and well deserved, too. Piping Live! showcases the very best of musical talent from across the globe and the reaction proves that there is a real appetite among audiences for events of this kind.

There is no better way to attract visitors to the country than by celebrating Scotland’s heritage in such a fantastic display.

According to evaluation by Tourism Resources Company, the August festival welcomed 33,000 music fans – 75 per cent of which were from outside the city, with a full 24 per cent coming from overseas, including New Zealand, Malaysia, USA and Canada.

The average overseas visitor to Piping Live! stayed in Glasgow for 5.6 days, in Scotland for 10.4 days and, in total, spending around £100 per day during their vacation. That’s some great numbers.

Tourism is expected to take another hike in Scotland next year, which is music to my ears – if you’ll pardon the pun.

In my opinion, the more events like these and the more visitors we can attract to this stunning country the better. The £2m boost is proof of the benefits that the nation can reap as a result.

Not only this, events like Piping Live! are great publicity for Scotland and puts the country on the world stage as an attractive location, bursting with vibrant creativity and a fascinating culture.

Next year will be the festival’s 17th year and I am very much looking forward to seeing the results as it continues to go from strength to strength.

A massive well done to all of the talented people to work hard to make this festival what it is. Scotland is a fantastic country and events like Piping Live! help to remind us all why.

 

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Happy

A massive well done to the little girl who made Christmas a little brighter by donating goods to Glasgow’s homeless last week.

Selfless Ellie Devlin, 12, had been saving up all year to buy herself a pair of Apple Air Pods over the festive season.

After seeing the number of people sleeping rough on the street during the festive season, she decided instead to use the saved cash to buy and donate supplies such as warm clothing, food and toiletries.

Christmas is the season of giving and it can be easy to forget its true meaning among the commercialised hustle and bustle.

This story warmed my heart and I think we could all learn a lesson from kind Ellie.

 

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Weep

Statistics were released last week that only one in four surveyors believe that there will be growth in Scottish house prices next year.

A survey by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that 24 per cent of respondents in Scotland expect prices to increase during the three months ahead. In comparison, the UK net balance sits at zero.

This worrying news for those looking to sell and is also concerning for the housing market as a whole.

General election turmoil has definitely played its part in stagnating the market and there are obvious worries linked to the uncertainty posed by Brexit.

I hope that now with at least the election being done and dusted, the market will stabilise slightly more and we’ll start to see improvements in the economy.

 

 

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