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John Burns chews the fat

on the high street

by Burns Team Writer

This issue sees Veterinary Surgeon, John Burns discuss the need for experience-based shopping with focus on the independent retailer.

Supporting the Independent Retailer in a High-Street Apocalypse

Each week, we are reading about a new high street casualty. It’s currently the turn of fast fashion retailer, New Look who reported an annual loss of £235M. This crash is partly due to the lure of the internet, but it’s also related to the “experience economy”, or lack thereof.

As a nation, we are spending more on meaningful experiences such as eating out than material items. If we do venture into shops, it’s usually for specialist advice or an experience that we can’t find on the internet. The trouble with the high-street is that many big retailers have been slow to grasp this. After all, how many times have you walked into a high street shop and not been so much as acknowledged?

One good thing about all this doom and gloom is that the independent retailer – which has often been snubbed in favour of the high street – is finally being given the opportunity to thrive.

Pet shops are multi-functional spaces where owners can often take their pooch to be weighed, groomed and fed with the guidance of a professional. Many shops also run their own events, harnessing the power of social media to attract new customers and spread the word. Events can range from free microchipping to dog walking schemes to pet and owner meet and greets.

When it comes to my own bread and butter, I can’t think of a better place to start than the independent retailers. If you are a new pet owner, the choice of pet food on offer can be truly overwhelming. When we started Burns back in the nineties, nobody was offering natural pet food. In fact, the concept was unheard of. Now, everyone and their dog claims to be making “natural” “wholesome” “nutritious” food. Pet shop owners have the knowledge and experience to cut through the noise and really help owners to choose the best food for their dog.

One of the biggest challenges we face at Burns is that customers buy our food and move their dog onto something else because they haven’t sought appropriate advice. Perhaps they’re not feeding the correct amounts, or they’ve chosen a variety that’s unsuitable for their pooch. By taking a trip to bricks and mortar shops and taking advantage of the bespoke advice and services available, this can save time and money in the long run.

I read a fantastic article by Simon Jenkins in The Guardian recently on the decline of the high-street. Jenkins makes the point that customers don’t necessarily want to sit in on their phones all day, they’re just want to find meaningful experiences and character.

“The truth is that a screen is not a life. We don’t want to sit at home all day punching glass. There are no “experiences” to be had in a bypass car park.”

Independent retailers champion community spirit and many offer bespoke services that are impossible to mirror online. We must cherish these spaces, the streets would be a lonely place without them.

High Street Article in The Tailchaser