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Updated: 9th December 2019

On the whole, 2019 has been yet another troubled year for retail. We said goodbye to some long-established names on our high street such as Thomas Cook and Mothercare, while others were saved from the brink of going under just in time.

Where there are those that have suffered, however, there are also those who are defying the gloom pervading the high street, managing to thrive under these challenging conditions.  Their success not only shows that there is still a desire from shoppers for the physical retail store, but that there is also still money to be made on the high street for retailers who can offer the shopping environment consumers want.

  • Aldi and Lidl – The growing popularity of the two German discounters shows no signs of fading just yet. Collectively they generated more than £1bn in sales over last year and both have clocked up double digit growth in terms of market share this year. 

    Last Christmas was Aldi’s best ever, enjoying a 10% increase in sales from the previous Christmas, and it appears the food retailer has carried this momentum through to 2019, overtaking Co-Op to be the fifth biggest supermarket in the UK. However, Aldi’s growth has come at a cost as investments in opening new stores and upgrading existing ones have hit profits.

    Likewise Lidl have had a successful year up £1.6bn in sales during the 12 weeks up to September 6th. Looking to the future, the grocery chain have placed a huge focus on gaining market share by growing its presence across the country through the planned opening of 230 new stores over the next three years.

    The grocery market is a sector which continues to grow, up 1.2% in the third quarter of 2019 which will be music to the ears of both Aldi and Lidl and their ambitious expansion plans.
  • JD Sports – Athleisure, that is sportswear which is designed for everyday use instead of just exercise, is big business. Sales are expected to grow by 20.9% by 2023, generating £6.7bn and outperforming all other retail sectors in the process, and when it comes to the UK market, JD Sports looks to be in pole position to capitalise on this boom.

    Like many in this marketplace JD Sports offer premium brands as well as the latest releases, however, where they differ is the environment in which they are displayed. With many retailers struggling with falling footfall as shoppers turn to online platforms, JD Sports have revamped their stores to bring the online experience to the high street.

    Technology pervades the stores with interactive mirrors, iPads, and digital advertisement screens helping to bridge the gap between online and offline, all making for a thoroughly modern shopping experience. These initiatives appear to be working as the company have enjoyed a 49.2% increase in sales this year.
"Their success not only shows that there is still a desire from shoppers for the physical retail store"
  • Selfridges – Upmarket department store, Selfridges, has once again posted record sales, continuing to defy the gloom which has characterised the high street this year. Sales increased 6% to £1.85bn demonstrating that people are still willing to spend on luxury and premium products in the right environment.

    Selfridges have invested heavily over the past couple of years, improving both the online and offline shopping experiences for consumers. Digitally, Selfridges have launched an Android app, an unlimited delivery subscription service, as well as a Chinese language website.

    Physical stores have also been treated to a series of upgrades which has put the focus on creating a shopping environment which prioritises the experiential. An indoor skate bowl is now housed within the menswear department at the Oxford Street store, while a cinema opened at the same store in November.
  • Primark – Aimed at the price conscious, Primark is the opposite of Selfridges. The stores are packed with both clothes and customers. Primark is in the minority of fast fashion retailers by not having an ecommerce platform and instead relies on people visiting the store in person. However, this does not mean they do not have an online presence; their social media following runs into the millions (8m on Instagram) generating buzz about the latest releases and enticing people into stores.

    While its rivals are trimming store numbers, Primark opened up their largest store to date in April this year in Birmingham. At over 160,000 sq ft and spread over five floors, the store boasts a beauty salon, barber shop, and a Disney-themed café, creating a comprehensive shopping experience which goes beyond the offerings at most high street stores.

    Despite their many differences, JD Sports, Selfridges, and Primark have all demonstrated that a focus on the customer experience is increasingly important in this challenging retail landscape.
  • Greggs – Profit forecasts were raised four times during a hugely successful 2019.  Greggs kicked off the year with the launch of their now famous vegan sausage roll, a product whose success exceeded expectations and helped to change the perception of the retailer amongst those looking for on-the-go lunchtime options. An uplift of 12.4% for year-on-year sales during the six week period up to November 9th this year along with a pledge to introduce vegan versions of all its major products puts Greggs in a great place for a positive 2020.
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