If any readers have recollections of 1995, you might have spent time watching Braveheart, listening to Blur and wondering just how long Eric Cantona’s ban would be for executing his flying kick on a Crystal Palace fan.
What might not have caught your attention was that a Seattle-based online start-up business shipped its first book. Today, we’ll all have a view on Amazon and it’s interesting to note that recent PwC research reveals that 38% of UK shoppers start their product search on the Amazon site.
The challenge ecommerce has presented to the high street is profound but the reason I raised 1995 is to underline the fact that with well over two decades of retail ‘disruption’, this is not a new threat but a well-established one.
Most high street brands and authorities have been sluggish in their response and three stories from July alone point to dramatic changes still in play. The first underlines how the sector is still contracting - nearly a fifth of British retailers are planning to cut the number of people they employ in the next three months.
The second reveals an aspect of how major retailers are responding to ‘disruptors’ who have a bricks and mortar presence - Tesco is set to launch a discount chain with plans for 60 stores to battle the growth of Aldi and Lidl.
Yet even as supermarkets diversify, the third piece of news reveals that Lidl is planning to lead the development of more than 3,000 homes in a number of urban centres. The company is championing mixed-use schemes - offices, hotels, student accommodation and flats – as part of an approach to secure planning permission.
Rather than sitting back, local authorities and developers need to seize opportunities to work together. As people are less likely to take time out to visit the high street as they did up until the mid-90s, it makes sense to create new communities in city centres, fit for today’s digitised era.
We can see that starting to unfold as part of the £12m transformation of The Kingsway. And everyone who cares about the future of Swansea’s once vibrant city streets need to take a leaf out of the Amazon and Lidl playbooks - it is essential to innovate, commit and work in partnership towards to a long-term vision.