The closure of Thomas Cook highlights the woes the High Street faces as traditional bricks and mortar businesses are being squeezed out by online competition. Apropos by D.J. Alexander Ltd, one of the UK’s largest family-run property management businesses, believes that Thomas Cook was a victim of a failure to adapt to the changing marketplace and mirrors closures in estates agents, restaurants and retailers and that to survive businesses need to adapt to new ways of operating.
In the first six months of this year there have been 1,743 high street insolvencies among estate agents, retailers, and restaurants. The figures this year are already on course to be higher than last year when 3,136 high street businesses went bust and are likely to be the highest on record.
David Alexander, managing director of apropos by D.J. Alexander Ltd, explained: “These figures show that traditional High Street businesses such as travel agents, estate agents, and restaurants are all being hit hard by changing consumer habits. In particular, the idea of going into town and booking a holiday or buying or renting a house from someone in a shop has long been superseded by the internet. Meanwhile, restaurants have suffered from the growth of online ordering systems such as Deliveroo and JustEat which have enormously increased the number of outlets offering takeaways.”
“The shift online in traditional High Street markets has been relentless and generationally there has been a major shift by people under 40 who run their lives through their phones, tablets and computers. This group would never now consider going into an estate agent or a travel agent for information and they are the future, so the market must shift to cater for this group.”
David continued: “High rents with long leases and rising business rates have played a central part in causing the closure of many city and town centre businesses and there appears to be little sign of this situation abating.”
“Traditional High Street businesses such as estate and travel agents must provide an excellent online offering coupled with outstanding personal service. Clients still want the meet and greet personal experience in lettings and estate agencies but backed up by an online platform which answers all their questions and fulfils all their needs. Given that the property investment market has changed dramatically over the last few years estate and letting agents must think smarter and act more efficiently to provide clients with a cost effective, pro-active, legal and financial offering to ensure the customer can access all services in one place.”
David concluded: “The closure of such an historic brand as Thomas Cook is upsetting particularly for the many thousands of staff who have lost their jobs. But it is also a tale for our times that businesses which fail to adapt will, in the end, simply fail. Bricks and mortar will, and should, remain an integral part of the High Street but for travel and property the market has changed irrevocably. Adapting to the new world is not just an option it is essential. Acknowledging this and providing the service and platforms the consumer wants will ensure some businesses survive while others, unfortunately, fall by the wayside.”