South West shoppers show there is still hope for the High Street

Nick Turk, director covering out-of-town retail parks in the South West for Colliers International. Picture by Antony Thompson - Thousand Word Media

Shoppers in the South West have shown there is still hope for the High Street.

Recent research by YouGov for real estate services company Colliers International on shopping preferences has shown a clear preference among shoppers in the South West for town and city centre retail locations.

Nick Turk, retail director in the South West office of Colliers International said: “This research has confirmed what shoppers in popular locations such as Bristol’s Gloucester Road and North Street already knew – that many South West shoppers genuinely enjoy shopping in their local high streets and shopping centres if the location offers the right experience.

“Despite recent gloomy headlines about the demise of ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers and the growth of online shopping, this survey has shown that people in the South West are still going out to the shops and that they prefer shopping in a town or city centre above any other shopping destination.

“While many shoppers like buying online because the internet can bring down prices, shoppers are still prepared to pay for a quality retail experience, featuring outstanding products – often from independent retailers – and a high standard of service.”

The YouGov research, which was carried out as part of the Colliers International 2018 Midsummer Retail Report, asked people about their preferred shopping locations.

A total of 61% of South West respondents said they regarded going shopping in their closest town or city centre as appealing, and 52% felt the same about shopping in their local high street. By contrast, 41% of South West shoppers said they found shopping at a large out-of-town shopping centre appealing, with that description being applied by 47% to shopping at a retail park, and by 48% to an indoor shopping centre.

The main reason given by South West shoppers for making purchases in person rather than online was because they wanted to be able to see and test a product before buying, with 77% highlighting this factor.

A further 44% said they found shopping in person enjoyable, and 41% said it was quicker than having to wait for an online delivery. A further 31% said they regarded going out shopping as a social activity.

However, the research also revealed that while South West shoppers said they preferred shopping in their local towns, city centres and high streets, 59% said they would visit their preferred locations even more frequently if they could park for free.

A total of 65% of South West shoppers said they would like to see more independent retailers in their preferred shopping locations, and 45% said they would like to see more independent restaurants and cafes.

The research showed that shoppers in the South West were particularly likely to visit a store for their food shopping, with 91% saying they had bought their groceries in person in a shop in the past 12 months.

Other popular in store purchases among South West shoppers were clothes, which 81% had bought in store in the previous year.

Matthew Thompson, Head of Retail Strategy, Colliers International, added: “The research – of which these findings are just a snapshot – has provided fascinating insights into shopper attitudes and how they are likely to influence the retail sector over time.

“Of course, our attitudes change depend upon our ‘age and stage’ but this illustrates that successful retailing is very much a moving target which we all must track.”