With many coronavirus measures still in place and an air of uncertainty over the future, the high street has already suffered during the lockdown. What it will look like in a year remains uncertain, but there are a few possible scenarios.
The End of Big Names
Some economists have suggested that major brands could disappear from the high street completely. Marks and Spencer have already cut 7000 jobs, and Debenhams have cut 14,000. WH Smith is considering cutting another 1,500, which equates to 11% of its staff. There are rumours of liquidation everywhere, and with the UK officially in the midst of a recession, it seems that the high street’s suffering has only just begun. If big names are to collapse completely, then the high street will be nearly unrecognisable in a year’s time. If those companies decide to shift their operations fully online, there could be devastating knock-on effects for smaller high street shops, too.
Home Working Will Have an Effect
Working from home has led many companies to decentralise and also created a new demand for at home office equipment. Individuals will suddenly need to purchase an operator chair and all kinds of office equipment. Companies catering specifically for work-at-home jobs and selling items like Bestbuy operator chairs will certainly benefit from this trend. Anybody adjusting to the new work-at-home lifestyle will require a setup that includes a monitor, a desk and an operator chair, creating a whole new market. Whether these individuals choose to buy from the high street or online remains to be seen, but the work-at-home professional certainly creates a new retail demographic.
Recovery Is Possible
Not all economists have adopted an attitude of complete doom and gloom. Almost from the start of the pandemic, there’s been talk of a so-called V-shaped economic recovery, whereby people flock back to the high street as soon as measures are lifted, sparking a quick recovery. There is some evidence for this. June’s sales figures show 3.4% growth, and that’s with coronavirus still very much present in our lives. Retail figures rebounded again in July, as the high street slowly recouped more of its lockdown losses. More than ever, we live in a world characterised by uncertainty, but a V-shaped recovery certainly seems possible and might just be enough to preserve the high street in its current form.