Reputation Survey: Online stores blamed for high street slump

As Republic becomes the latest big-name high street store to close, research reveals that 38 per cent of the public blames online stores for the continuing decline of the high street.

Shopping around: OnePoll's word cloud depicts public opinion on the state of the high street
Shopping around: OnePoll's word cloud depicts public opinion on the state of the high street

The public blames online retailers the most for closures on the high street, PRWeek/OnePoll's latest research has revealed.

The survey was conducted as fashion brand Republic became the latest in a string of high street outlets that have entered administration.

Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said online stores were the most to blame for the high street closures. This was followed by 22 per cent who blamed the economy, 11 per cent who blamed the Government and ten per cent who blamed the stores themselves for not adapting quickly enough to their environment.

Forty-six per cent said they trusted firms with a high street store more than an online-only firm. Forty-nine per cent said they would feel more comfortable buying from a high street brand's website than from an online-only brand's site.

The research showed the high street retains significant support from respondents. The majority (63 per cent) said the Government should freeze rates for high street businesses. But consumers also pointed out failings from the brands themselves. Sixty-four per cent said high street stores had been too slow to adapt to the digital world.

But there were discrepancies in the figures. Although price and convenience were the two most important factors for consumers, which would seem to favour online shopping, 74 per cent said it was either 'very important' or 'important' for them to physically see, touch or try products before they purchased.

Survey of 2,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

How I see it

Niki Wheeler, director, Launch PR

Bleak, broken and boarded up. This survey suggests Brits have abandoned their high street for pound shops, fast-food joints and the occasional grim pub.

But we love the high street - we just view it differently these days.

The post-financial crisis British shopper is a capricious beast. Suspicious of brands that don't have a 'physical' presence, we want to inspect goods before purchase. But, because we want choice and low prices, we will actually buy them online.

So, brands need to convince shoppers they can give them their cake - and a place to eat it. Discount in-store on lines people actually want and offer slick online - and mobile - sales tools, and shoppers will spend. The latest BDO monthly High Street Sales Tracker (on which we work) showed the first week of 2013 to be the best weekly sales performance in three years.

This came too late for Blockbuster, Jessops and HMV, but it was a valuable lesson - on the high street, presence alone is not enough to buy loyalty.

Key figures

74% of respondents said it was 'very important' or 'important' to physically see/touch/try a product before buying

54% said Woolworths was the high street store they missed most natural evolution

41% said the closures on the high street were just part of the natural evolution of retail

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