Rise of discerning young shoppers throws a lifeline to the high street
The UK’s 18-24 year-olds may offer a new stream of customers after a torrid year, writes
Young shoppers may offer a lifeline for struggling town centres, according to new research highlighting a generational divide in shopping habits. The polling from YouGov and Colliers International found that over three quarters of 18-24 year-olds feel shopping in their closest town or city centre is appealing, compared to just 54pc of people over 55.
With more than 1,300 stores closing since January, the British high street has had a terrible year.
John Lewis Partnership this week became the latest big brand to reveal difficulties, announcing that it would close four Waitrose convenience stores and one supermarket.
The company said it expected profits to be “close to zero” in the first half of the year, and joins chains such as House of Fraser, Marks & Spencer and Jamie’s Italian in announcing store closures.
But according to Mark Phillipson, head of UK retail at Colliers, the new findings suggest there “will be no shortage of willing shoppers” in the future.
He added that the results “confound a lot of the stereotypical attitudes” people have about shoppers of different generations.
“We may think young people are all avidly shopping online but they are actually some of the strongest supporters of the town centre shopping experience,” he said.
Matthew Thompson, head of retail strategy at Colliers, added that the findings “illustrate that successful retailing is very much a moving target”.
When asked what they thought the advantages of online retailers opening physical stores would be, the ability to see and try products prior to purchasing was overwhelmingly most important.
Nearly two thirds of people highlighted this factor in response, while just one in 10 cited convenience.
The study suggests the UK’s grocery market is also changing. Although just under a third of people currently shop online for food products, 56pc of 18-24 year-olds said that the concept of ordering groceries through Amazon, with the cost of delivery bundled in with Amazon Prime membership, was attractive. This was well above the 38pc average.
Mr Phillipson said that online shopping was not currently a profitmaking area for supermarkets, so a growing market could present “a major headache for the supermarket operators”.
He added: “The supermarket chains need to find a way to make this part of their business more profitable.
“We could see higher delivery charges, but which operator is going to blink first and surrender competitive advantage to its rivals?”
The survey also suggested that shoppers will become increasingly concerned about the provenance of
‘We may think young people are shopping online but they are some of the strongest town centre supporters’
the products they purchase, as 65pc of 18-34 year-olds said they would pay more for items which have validated ethical credentials or clear provenance. This compares to just over half of people who are over the age of 45.
“People over 35 may have grown up with David Attenborough on the TV but his environmental message does not seem to have influenced them as much as the younger generation,” said Mr Phillipson.
“Retailers are used to prices being forced down, but this may be one instance where they have scope to rise.”