We attempt to predict the future and take an educated guess at what the high street will look like twenty years from now…
Time for change
There is no way the high street will go through as little innovation in the next couple of decades as it has done in the last.
Yes, certain things have changed – you can find WiFi in stores, you are able to review an experience on TripAdvisor and are likely to avoid cash in favour of contactless payment. But despite the odd change here and there, the high street experience is a carbon copy of what it was a decade ago, and any changes that have been enacted could have occurred over a matter of months.
This lack of development means it cannot be considered a surprise that the high street has struggled to keep up. With challenging market conditions and a pandemic making the situation even more desperate, the time has finally come for it to adapt in order to survive. It’s taken long enough.
So, what exactly will our beloved high street look like in twenty years time? Here at Stint, we got our thinking caps on and consulted our vast network of clients in hospitality to have our best guess. Here is what we came up with…
Imagine trying something on but they don’t have the colour you want in stock. What do you do? You could return home, order it online and wait five days for it to show up. Or you could watch as a drone carries it over from a store a few miles away and drops it on your lap, ready to go.
It might sound audacious, but drones are already being rolled out to help the high street today. In recent months, Walmart announced deals with three drone operators in order to ramp up on-demand deliveries and better compete with Amazon. The courier service is currently streets ahead in terms of quick turnaround times, but the introduction of drones would help to level the playing field.
Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior vice president of customer products, said drones could be a way “to serve customers in as many ways as we possibly can that suits their needs, whether that’s speed or convenience. Drones now are at a place where I think that technology represents a huge opportunity,” he said.
So watch this space – when you notice drones flying around outside, you’ll know the airborne retail revolution has begun.
If you think about it, when you walk past a restaurant, bar or pub, they don’t really do much to convince you to go inside. Except in touristy areas, where there is someone almost dragging you in (usually the sign of a bad restaurant rather than a good one) – high street marketing is incredibly basic. You might see a sign showcasing a soup of the day, or a two for one offer, but, in most places, you are left to just idly stroll by.
Imagine, as you walked past a restaurant, a notification popped up on your phone with a special offer or freebie – you’re more likely to go in, right? This new process is called Beacon Technology, whereby wireless transmitters use Bluetooth signals to connect with other smart devices nearby, making location-based searching and interaction more intelligent and personalised.
Beacon Technology is currently being rolled out in the US, where more than a million beacons are likely to be installed this year alone. Moreover, these new forms of communication will only become more intuitive as more testing is conducted. At Stint, we expect this more personalised and spontaneous form of advertising to bolster the pull of the high street, contributing to its renewed success.
If the ‘Work From Home’ lifestyle really is the new normal – even after the Covid-19 pandemic – high street businesses will have to react. With fewer commuters in town to buy food and drink, businesses will suffer and will therefore need to find new ways of encouraging employees to visit the high street.
One way of doing that is by transforming the high street into an affordable office space for people to work. Brewdog has already caught on to this phenomenon by launching ‘Desk Dog’, providing customers with a desk space, unlimited coffee, WiFi access and a free pint of IPA for only £7 a day. Customers can even choose to sign up for a monthly season pass for only £70, which breaks even on beer alone!
At Stint, we expect other businesses to copy this bright idea sooner rather than later, as a means to the end of keeping customers active on the high street.
Brewdog isn’t the only business offering a competitively priced subscription service to entice customers. In September 2020, Pret launched ‘YourPret Barista’, offering customers unlimited coffees and hot drinks for just £20 per month.
The use of subscription based deals is another way to ensure customers keep returning to high street stores. Whilst Pret’s subscribers might be getting more than £20 worth of coffee, the fact customers are going into stores to get it means that the likelihood of them buying, say, a brownie, goes from impossible to likely.
Perhaps it won’t only be drinks available on subscription in twenty years time. Customers would flock to retail stores if they knew they had a free piece waiting for them each month (but give us some credit if that idea makes you a millionaire.)
So many buskers that we see are incredibly talented – but yet most are used to playing in tiny areas in tube stations where nobody wants to hang about. But we reckon that busking will become an exciting and permanent feature of our high streets.
With the introduction of specific busking stations or pods, passers by will have the opportunity to be treated to live music in a place they’d actually want to sit and listen. If deliberately placed in areas close to restaurants, buskers can become performers. Who wouldn’t want to listen to some jazz piano whilst enjoying a glass of wine on a date?
Not only will buskers earn the money they deserve, but they will draw people to hospitality – ensuring that meaning that such a relationship is mutually beneficial. If councils endeavor to create specific busking zones on the high street, they’ll draw people to the space and create more opportunities for artists to showcase their talent. Watch (or listen) to this space.
No more Pigeons
What’s the worst thing about high streets? Pigeons, of course! Thankfully, we’ll be living in a pigeon free universe in two decade’s time, as the 2026 mutation of Coronavirus – Coovid 26 – will affect pigeons only.
King Kovid, general of the virus, explained his thought process in an interview with ITV News: “I hurt the hospitality industry badly, and realised I picked on the wrong people”, he told Phillip Schofield. “So I had to even things up, and this was the least I could do.”
A pigeon version of track and trace couldn’t quite save the species from high street extinction, despite being marginally quicker than Matt Hancock’s effort in 2020.
New Staffing Models
It wouldn’t be right for us to do a piece on the future of the high street without including our very own solution for the hospitality industry.
As hundreds of hospitality operators around the country are slowly realising, partnering with Stint will become a necessity to keep up with the competition. In 20 years time, most high street businesses will have Stint – or a form of it – integrated into its staffing model.
Our model enables operators to hire the staff they need on an hour by hour basis, meaning they can match the supply of labour perfectly to customer demand. Not only that, but Stint also frees up your brilliant permanent staff to remain client facing, ensuring that the customer experience is as good as can possibly be. You might not even notice Stint as it works so smoothly – but trust us, we’ll be there.