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In a time of post-Christmas recession I was most intrigued by the swarms of people hitting the high streets in the period between Christmas and New Year.  The number of high street shoppers in the “sales period” was up, sales however were dramatically down.

Obviously cash is an issue for many, even those who like to max-out their credit cards and what with Christmas always being an expense could it be a case of there is little left for the impulse buying, bargain hunter?  This is of course the case for many but I don’t believe it to be the only reason.

In the week prior to Christmas many of the big online retailers started their sales and I for one picked up all of the stuff I was hoping to buy in the post-Christmas sales which left me firstly with no money allocated for spending and secondly no reason to spend.  I ended up going to the sales only to find myself completely bored with rifling through endless DVDs and music with no real goal in mind.

Online sales are up, particularly in that week prior to the holiday.  My theory is that many, like myself grabbed a bargain or two before Christmas and then after Christmas had little to do, fell into the bored at home with the family and ended up doing the Christmas routine of heading out to the sales.  Hence busy shops but not much buying action.

Retail in the high street has sadly dug a hole for itself and it is really expensive just to have a premises there.  

So what can the high street do to reclaim the impulse? Well the evidence shows that people are still going to the shops, and getting footfall through your door is half the battle.  When they’re there you’ve got to keep ’em there.  Daily deals are one idea which would not only attract people but also keep them coming back regularly.  There is also a lot of free publicity for daily deals, check out Hot UK Deals for one.

Another hurdle is having something unique compared to competitors.  Zavvi and HMV are very similar for example but HMV support the niche markets quite well such as a very good classical selection, usually in a quieter area of the store.  

Finally try rewarding your customers for making the effort to come to your store.  This could be something as simple as giving away your old product promotional material, or holding how-to sessions like they do in craft stores.  When did you last see an ironing tutorial in a clothes store or a lesson on how to fill in a cheque at a bank?

They are just a few ideas, feel free to throw in your own.  We all know change is coming.

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It doesn’t take a genius to look back at 2008 and work out that 2009 is going to be tough on the high street.

I’m currently editing a video on “Change”, featuring interviews with a number of people.  Whilst Change is obviously a hot subject at the minute, I discovered a quote from successful entrepreneur John Haines in which he suggests retailers should be doing the exact opposite right now.

It’s a shorty but a goodie.

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