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Isn’t it ironic: Amazon heads to the high street



Over the past decade, the UK high street has increasingly looked set to die, killed by a thousand cuts.  Since the collapse of Woolworths in 2008, 32 major retailers have met the same fate as the former icon of British retail.  

Last year alone led to the loss of an estimated 85,000 retail jobs as 1,000 large and small retailers went out of business. Among those that closed their doors for good were the fallen giants of Toys R Us and Maplin while countless others, including M&S, announced a raft of store closures.

The turmoil on the UK’s high streets has been caused by a number of factors ranging from reduced consumer confidence to ever increasing business rates and rents. Then of course it has been plagued by the rise – and rise – of online behemoths that have offered consumers competitive pricing and value-adds such as next day delivery.

An unlikely hero

Very much leading the assault on the high street has been Amazon, the one stop shop for seemingly everything and the pioneer of the Prime service. So, at the risk of quoting Alanis Morrisette, the sense of irony was not lost on us when Amazon opened it’s first bricks and mortar store, right here on our doorstep in Manchester.

Selling everything from food and drink to electronics, beauty products and homewares, and housing a number of Amazon Lockers for customers to collect their online orders, the store is the first of ten that Amazon plans to open across the UK this year. Part of a year-long pilot aimed at providing 100 small independent retailers their first taste of high street retailing, the store openings have been launched in partnership with the small business support organisation Enterprise Nation.

Explaining the decision to join forces with Amazon, Enterprise Nation highlighted that UK consumers like to be able to shop online and in-store, outlining that it hoped that the new stores would “help small businesses succeed by combining the best elements of online and high street retail”.

A change in fortunes?

This noble ambition certainly gives pause for thought on the idea that the UK high street is in terminal decline and gives some hope that it could yet be revived. After all Amazon hasn’t built its global success by backing losing horses, which would suggest that it’s first tentative steps onto the high street are part of a well-researched initiative aimed at further strengthening the business and meeting a consumer requirement.

If Amazon has got its calculations correct (which let’s face it, it usually does) it could be the start of a great revival for the UK high street. This will particularly true if the innovation of Amazon encourages others on the high street to modernise and innovate their approach to retailing, prompting further signs of life for traditional retailers.

Should this play out the giant of 21st century retailing that bought the high street to its knees could just be the one to help bring it back to life. Now that really would be ironic. 

Tagged with: Amazon, B2B PR agency Manchester , Lifestyle, Manchester, Marketing, North West , PR, PR Manchester