Sunday 10 October 2010

Whither the High street?

There will be always a need for things you can go out and buy. However, there are also industries that are surely going to disappear. One that appears today is here, with Thomas Cook merging its high street stores with the Co-Op.

When was the last time you went to buy a holiday from a shop? I am 35 and have never in my life been near a travel agents shop. I can't imagine many do when you can search on the web so easily.

So overall, this is another move to consolidate a business model that is not going to last for much longer. I often wonder with companies why they don't just go the whole hog in one step - are they too wedded to a failing business model?


Anonymous said...

Yes, there are quite a few businesses going the same way, which isn't very good news for retail space. In Britain we have about 25 sq feet of retail space per person, India has 1.5 sq ft per person.

Budgie said...

According to ONS 9 million adults do not use tinterweb. Of those that do some still use high street agents (I did, for my families last flight abroad because the agent was cheaper than anything I could find online).

But I accept that many retail models are dying.

Budgie said...



Bill Quango MP said...

Good move for currency though.
They can offer same rates. They are still pretty much the cheapest on the high street.
Lots of people still book through an agent. All those brochures in one place. Staff who can fiddle about to find the right room, right time etc.
I rarely use them myself but I have done, and it was a good service.

As anon says 9 million+ who never use the web. And most of them will be silver surfers on cruises and breaks.

Had been expecting a deal with Post office,thinking this was a better fit for them. Family and pensioners target market. A selection of the most popular travel destinations. Same currency supplies and rates. Agents taking a 'fee' / booking using Thomas cook systems etc.
Seems that idea has died.

Andrew B said...

There was a program on R4 about phones - how there used to be a room in big houses set aside for the telephone because it was v expensive.

They played a segment of QT in the early 70s (?) where all the pundits stated how they would rather get a letter.

60 years later, we have more than one phone each. We prefer to text each other.

We expect phones to work, but there is still a small thrill when your pc and network and browser all work first time (possibly me getting old).

In a few years, net access (and the equipment) will be a utility item here.
I do not think it will take another 50 years, perhaps 10.

If you need to talk to someone, if it needs to be fresh, if you need to touch or smell it, or you need it now - there is a future for the physical shop that provides that.

Otherwise not on a large scale.

This has some odd consequences. Having spent the last 5 years telling all that 'WHS - what is that for precisely', I think they do have a future as people really do like to leaf through magazines (and then buy something else).
Critically, they do seem to like touching stationary, cards and wrapping paper. You can build a business on that.

If I could short out of town shopping centres and go long on malls near where people work I would.

Steven_L said...

I was speaking to a small travel agent about this a while back.

He reckoned he caters more these days for the affluent grey market, expensive cruises and long haul stuff and has a lot of repeat business.

Old BE said...

I was thinking about shopping this weekend. I never "go shopping" in London because it's too awful. Which means that I rarely buy anything except essentials. I was in a nice town this weekend outside London and found myself drawn to the shopping streets. They were nice. I felt very comfortable walking around, window shopping and actually buying stuff!

I don't worry about particular industries disappearing from the high street, they will be replaced by something else: cafes, independent general stores, etc..

Steven_L said...

I never "go shopping" in London because it's too awful.

You're kidding??? Too expensive yes, but too awful?

I love window shopping in London, but I daren't ever go in and ask how much stuff is.

Electro-Kevin said...

Any form of brokerage is at risk but there is nothing like talking to a well informed advisor, in person, for what feels like good service.

BrianSJ said...

Business model innovation hardly ever comes from established players - it is how the outsider wins.

Deal with PO would have been sensible but PO has to lose the lunacy of its Ts&Cs.

Have recently used phone/email travel agent for complicated trip - very good.

Richard Elliot said...

I agree with your general point that travel agents, and other high street retailers, are dying out. But two times recently (volcanic ash + a cancelled flight) I've been pleased I booked via a travel agent. The agent sorted everything out for me and I didn't spend hours stressing or on hold to the airline / hotels.

Elby the Beserk said...

Went into a travel shop in town a couple of years ago, to inquire about what I cannot remember.

30 seconds into the conversation I was having with a staff member, her phone rang. Without so much as an "Excuse me", she picked it up and spoke to the caller for three or four minutes.

30 seconds later, the phone rang again. Same again. I walked out.

Never been back since.

Andrew B - my in-laws didn't haver a phone until the late 70s. Phone box down the road was used.