Love of high street endures but shoppers crave in-store tech

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The role of the high street is here to stay, with two thirds of shoppers still preferring to view valuable products in person before buying, according to a new survey.

But shoppers are also eager for new technologies, with nearly 60% of people surveyed saying they would be more likely to visit stores kitted out with smart fitting rooms or virtual reality.

Barclays, who produced the report, claim the findings reveal a desire for a new form of high street that is more diverse and makes better use of technology. The report showed that in the next 12 months, consumers are more likely to shop in the high street branch of a national retailer than from the same retailer online (81% versus 60%).

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They are also more likely to shop in the high street branch of a local or independent retailer (77%) than use a subscription delivery service (17%) or the mobile app of an internet only retailer (36%). Yet with the majority of shoppers (83%) also planning to shop online at an internet specialist in the next 12 months, competition is clear.

The report also claimed that investing more on technologies in-store would give high street retailers a boost. It said that shoppers (65%) are eager to see more touchscreen technology. Newer, more experiential technologies are also popular: shoppers are more likely to visit a store kitted out with virtual reality (57%), smart fitting rooms (57%) or augmented reality (52%).

In addition, new payment technologies are highly rated by consumers, with many describing contactless (48%) and mobile payments (37%) as “life changing”.

Finally, the data showed that shoppers are now five times more likely to use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to complain about a product than they were three years ago. And they want a quick response when they complain, with one in three (38%) expecting a complaint made via social media responded to within an hour.

Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “The British high street is part of what has made the UK great. Being a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ is ingrained in our cultural identity and consumer pride in the sector endures. Our research reveals that the public still see the high street as an essential part of the shopping experience and as a national treasure they want to see protected.

“Consumer confidence in the retail sector is continuing despite uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote, and there are opportunities ahead for retailers if they can maximise the opportunity of ‘Brand Britain’, both at home and abroad.”

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