Let's save our iconic fashion brands but don't forget the High Street in the process
Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge are leaving our High Streets. The shops that decades of British teens have spent their pocket money in have been bought by ASOS for the brand, not the retail spaces. The same goes for Debenhams and likely soon Dorothy Perkins and Burtons. That’s sad news for communities and the thousands of staff affected. It also feels like these giants of online retail may be missing a trick.
No one would disagree that Debenhams and Topshop failed to move with the times. Their physical stores were old-fashioned and uninspiring experiences, with the exception of Topshop’s Oxford Street flagship store. But these iconic British shopping brands also failed to focus on online and social media marketplace - leaving room for the likes of Boohoo and ASOS to thrive.
Of course, no amount of online innovation will work if the product isn’t right and according to many experts, Topshop fashions have been a bit hit and miss over the last few years after the departure of Jane Stephenson. Even before we entered a world of lockdowns, it had been a while since Topshop had caused a buzz (and sales) anywhere close to what accompanied its more epic collaborations with the likes of Kate Moss or Christopher Kane. ASOS could bring back the fashion kudos, I’d say, in a more sustainable way.
Topshop’s loyal trend seekers are facing lockdown fatigue and even though online is massive, to this audience, experiential high street retail remains a priority and it must be about to face a bounce back - we all need more physical experiences at the moment. Primark understands that, recently reasserting its commitment to the High Street.
Online shopping continues to boom and one could argue it is becoming more saturated. ASOS and Boohoo have an opportunity to differentiate, injecting their distinctive approaches to physical retail, just like they did to online fashion. And physical retail is ready for a revolution, with its static designs, inflexible landlords and outdated approach to shopping.
Let’s be honest, as a society we need these moments to look forward to - Saturdays catching up with friends and checking out the latest trends, dashing around looking for a last-minute present for a loved one, and seeing life return to our quiet streets.
By Julia Leckey, Founder and CEO of Honest.