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Retail experts suggest change is needed for retailers to survive, while clever indies could rise again

Is UK sick of ‘clone town Britain’?

Gloomy January led to three major chains going into administration: Blockbuster, HMV and Jessops. But there might be a silver lining to all those clouds.

Retail analysts are suggesting there are lessons to be taken from the failures of these firms.

Retail expert Clare Rayner told PCR: “I believe that what we’re seeing with the collapse of certain chains is evidence that consumers are sick of ‘clone town Britain’.”

This could even lead the way to resurgence in indies, as they open to fill gaps and cater to local needs.

Rayner continued: “BIRA stats last year showed that indies were opening up at a faster rate than chains were reducing store numbers, so there is plenty of evidence to support the phenomenon that has been dubbed ‘The boutiquing of the High Street’. That said there are a number of barriers to new retailers that need to be addressed, such as business rates.”

All retailers need to keep working on bringing customers back in to stores, but must bear web strategy in mind too.

Peter Saville, partner at advisory and restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper said: “While 2013 appears to be heading in a disappointing direction, the fact that many retailers, including John Lewis and Dixons, are still performing well means that all is not lost. In 2013 it is imperative that companies keep pace with changing consumer habits and continue to develop their in-store experience – looking at ensuring quality and convenience as well as providing a comprehensive service online”

Michael Hechler, senior vice president of the physical commerce group at global e-commerce provider, Digital River, agreed, saying: “What may have drawn customers to stores a decade ago no longer works. Customers are changing.

“Most notably, as the online world has become an integrated part of everyday life, so too must it become an integrated part of comprehensive sales strategies. Simply having a website is not enough any more.”

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