It’s no secret that smaller retailers face the challenge of their lives against ecommerce giants such as Amazon — and in Britain, this fight has recently been compounded by Brexit and its potential effects on the retail and trade industries.
But there’s hope yet. A recently launched organization called SaveTheHighStreet.org aims to give the power back to high street retailers and local shopkeepers by endowing them with the tools, skills, and digital capabilities they need to compete in the modern age.
Founded by public relations and marketing consultant Lyndsay King, SaveTheHighStreet.org has garnered major press over the last several months and has strengthened its network by partnering with names such as Xero and PocketHighStreet.
Vend has always been about giving the little guys the tools the big guys have, so we found a natural ally in Lyndsay and her initiative. We sat down with the woman behind the idea to get some insights into this grassroots movement; read our interview below.
Where did your inspiration come from for SaveTheHighStreet.org? What drove you to create this campaign?
It was my mom who always made a point to shop local. As I grew up, we saw many small independent shops close, and it was always sad. She used to say it was the end of an era. I’ve always shopped local as much as I can. For the past eight years, I’ve also been working with independent retailers; I can really understand the struggle to set up, succeed, and grow as a local shopkeeper.
Earlier in 2016, I met Alex Schlagman — the founder of PocketHighStreet, a tech platform that helps local shops get discovered and promoted across a network of online publishers. He had loads of insight and close relationships with shopkeepers across London.
I was also spending time talking to shops I knew and to other contacts, and between us, we brought together an initial group representative of the industry. The founding partnerships started to form, with lots of other shops and players from across the industry joining the movement as well.
What’s your ultimate goal? What can we expect to see from you in the coming months? Where do you see SaveTheHighStreet.org in the next few years?
The goal is a stronger high street with more businesses thriving and more diverse shopping — a place where people can go to enjoy their communities. I like to see entrepreneurs living their dreams. It makes people happy, and it’s even better seeing a shop on top of its game: better-connected, skilled-up, and digitally enabled.
It would be great to see all shopkeepers in touch and really leveraging the power of the group. I don’t think many shopkeepers understand the power and influence that come with being part of a group that size. We aim to help over 100,000 shops in 2017.
We want to help challenge the biggest issues shopkeepers face — from gaps in digital capabilities to rates and rents — and to help them find a voice.
What’s the response been like over the last few months?
Throughout the launch period, hundreds of local shops registered every week. We were flooded with enquiries and messages of support from business associations, solution providers, media, and lots of local people who just wanted to help.
We’ve opened a Retailer Advisory Board to independent retailers nationwide, and lots of shops are keen to benefit from having more of a voice and more insight into our plans and optional publicity.
Why is it so important to “save the high street”?
So important on so many levels!
A world without diverse and thriving high streets is not one I want to live in — and I’m certainly not alone. There are so many dreams, livelihoods, and micro-economies at stake.
Things have never changed as much or as fast as they do today. If our local shopkeepers don’t capitalize on the best skills, tools, and opportunities of the increasingly omnichannel world, they could be further and more deeply disrupted than ever. We need to work to close the gap that’s dividing us.
What is the “connected digital high street”? Tell us about the “blueprint” you’ve created.
There are 10 pillars for successful modern retailing, which we included in the Connected Digital High Street Manifesto we launched this past summer.
Within each pillar, there are loads of opportunities and challenges. We created the Retailer Advisory Board specifically to address this and to create recommendations for successful modern retailing by the retailer for the retailer.
We’re identifying, testing, and sharing with others the things that are working well for actual retailers doing business today.
We share this framework for successful modern retailing for free with all SaveTheHighStreet.org members.
How can those interested get involved in the campaign?
Any shopkeeper can sign up for free in a few seconds at SaveTheHighStreet.org.
You can also join the Retailer Advisory Board by filling in this questionnaire. Retailer Advisory Board members get extra publicity opportunities, early insight into the programs we’re running through 2017, and the option to get much more involved.