Britain's high street businesses are entrenched in a period of crisis – but many could be doing more to tackle it, according to a leading international sales consultancy.
The comments comes in the wake of new figures revealing that 40 per cent of all high street shops remain empty, despite initiatives aimed at kick-starting some life back into town centres.
Doug Tucker, MD of Sales Commando, states that these shocking statistics should be the wake up call that heralds a return to staff training basics: 'High street outlets are losing out massively to the huge out-of-town retail parks. This is obviously partly because of the convenience of the all-in-one-place aspect, but many units based in the town centre are not doing enough to help themselves.
'There should be a renewed drive on staff training, with a focus on building lasting relationships with customers, which in turn will lead to brand loyalty and therefore a healthier bottom line. From the smallest family business to international banks, clothes chains and mobile phone companies, the time to hone employees' interpersonal skills is now.'
Recently there have been renewed governmental efforts to regenerate Britain's abandoned high streets with recommendations that traders should be helped to open businesses by minimising red tape. A national market day has also been initiated, in which prospective retailers in 12 chosen towns were helped to set up stalls and open pop-up shops.
Despite these efforts the state of the UK's retail areas have continued to decline, the fate of the small business seemingly sealed by out of town shopping malls and the Big Five supermarkets, which offer a competitively priced, everything under one roof shopping experience.
Compounding the crisis, Planning Minister Nick Boles believes that the demise of the high street should be embraced and that empty retail units should be transformed into affordable housing. Among Mr. Boles's suggestions are the relaxation of planning laws that will permit shops to be reclassified as private dwellings and a shortening of commercial streets.
Sales Commando's Doug Tucker is not convinced that it's closing time for Britain's businesses just yet.
'The point is that people still appreciate the kind of relationship and/or experience that the high street shop can provide. However, it is absolutely vital that these businesses ensure that their staff members have been meticulously trained. They should be armed with all the skills they need to build strong relationships with customers.
'The truth is that, while out-of-town complexes undoubtedly win on price, they cannot provide the more social, more leisurely shopping experience that the high street can deliver. The high street firms should capitalise on these strengths further by developing sales and service techniques that make the customer feel special.'