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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - Sarah Newey

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.”

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