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New research from Barclays New Retail Reality report: Love of British high street endures in Scotland

Posted: 4th November 2016

Love of British high street endures in Scotland, but investing on in-store touchscreens and smart changing rooms would boost shops

  • 53% of Scottish shoppers still prefer to physically see valuable products before buying
  • But shoppers are eager for new technologies: More than 60% of Scots would be more likely to visit stores kitted out with touchscreens or smart fitting rooms
  • Shoppers now five times more likely to use Twitter to complain about purchases than three years ago, and one in three (38%) expect responses within an hour
  • Two thirds want the protection of British retailers prioritised as part of Brexit negotiations


2 November 2016: The enduring role of the British high street is revealed in new research by Barclays, with more than half (53%) of shoppers in Scotland still preferring to view valuable products in person before buying.


As the retail sector prepares for the impact of Brexit, The Barclays New Retail Reality report uncovers a desire for a new form of high street that is more diverse and makes better use of technology, while revealing that two thirds of the UK population want the government to prioritise the protection of British retailers and goods in Brexit negotiations.


Euan Murray, Relationship Director at Barclays Corporate Banking in Scotland, 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 consumers in Scotland – in line with the rest of the country 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.”


Boosting the high street through technology and experiences

Demand for a vibrant, diverse high street in Scotland remains strong. In the next 12 months, Scottish consumers are more likely to shop in the high street branch of a national retailer than from the same retailer online (81% v 59%). 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 (20%) or the mobile app of an internet only retailer (49%). Yet with the majority of shoppers (85%) also planning to shop online at an internet specialist in the next 12 months, competition is clear.


However, investing more on technologies in-store would give high street retailers a further boost. Appetite for touchscreen technology is particularly strong in Scotland, with 65% of shoppers citing as the technology they would like to see more of. Smart fitting rooms (61%), virtual reality (60%) and augmented reality (58%) were also more likely to make Scots visit stores.


In another technological shift, 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.


To continue prospering, high streets also need to offer more diverse experiences. When asked what types of outlet people want to see more of on their high streets, more independent specialist retailers (44%) and independent cafes and restaurants (36%) topped the list. However, it is clear that shoppers remain price sensitive with discount stores (29%) being the third most popular option.


Euan Murray added:


“Consumer expectations are currently moving faster than retailer innovation. More investment is needed to keep consumers coming back for what they love – great British high street experiences.


“The conclusion from our research is that in Scotland the key to success for many retailers is to offer a balanced high street and online offering, taking advantage of technological innovation in store, including touchscreen technology in particular to attract shoppers through their doors.”  


Post-Brexit retail opportunities

The research also shows Britons to be proud of the retail sector and they want the industry protected during Brexit negotiations. Two thirds (64%) of consumers say they are proud of the service that UK retailers provide to society, and a similar proportion (65%) want the protection of UK retailers and goods prioritised during Brexit negotiations.

Overall, consumers are uncertain about the impact of Brexit on retail, but they do see areas of opportunity. Respondents are twice as likely to feel that the quality of groceries will improve post Brexit (28%), than not (14%)*, likely reflecting a hope that Brexit will result in more UK-based sourcing. Respondents are also more likely to believe that the availability of goods will improve (24%) compared to just 12% who think it will reduce. Similarly, shoppers are optimistic that food labelling will improve (26%) compared to 12% who think it will get worse.

There are, however, specific areas of concern with survey respondents citing worries about the availability of certain categories of goods, with exotic fruits (62%), wine (55%), luxury goods (42%) and cheese (40%) topping the list.

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