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Indie retailers struggling to "stay relevant"

A third of small and independent retailers are struggling to survive according to new research as technology and changing consumer habits continue to shake up Britain's high streets.

A survey by card processing specialist Worldpay reveals that many small retail business owners are conflicted about the role of technology and are unsure whether it represents a commercial threat or a business opportunity. The report concludes that many small retailers are struggling to "stay relevant".

The poll found that 61% of respondents said technology poses a significant threat to their survival; and 50% said it gets in the way of providing a personalised experience to customers. However, 88% said understanding and embracing new technology represents their best chance of survival.

The survey also found regional differences in the take-up of technology. in London and the south of England, for instance, 95% of respondents said they are investing in technology to expand their reach online, improve in-store experience and become more efficient. However, businesses in the midlands and the north were far more likely to be cash-only set-ups than those in the south.

Dave Hobday, Worldpay's UK Managing Director, said: 

"As far as retail and technology are concerned, the time for 'wait and see' has gone. Digital technology could unlock £18.8bn of revenue for SMEs, while reducing their costs by up to a fifth."
"Whilst we're seeing pockets of innovation in many corners of the UK, we also know that many small businesses are struggling to adapt," he added. "We want to empower these businesses to turn uncertainty into opportunity and reassure them that technology is a friend, not a foe."

Worldpay is running a technology awareness campaign this summer. Its iStreet hub will tour the UK; and small business experts, including Apprentice winner Tim Campbell, will be on hand to give advice to small retailers.

Tim Campbell said: 

"Regardless of the rapid changes technology is bringing about to the way people interact with their high streets, people still love them. By embracing the opportunities technological advances can present and listening to customer's needs there is still a place for the cherished brands and stores that many local residents trust and love. Being defeatist is not an option. Responding to the changes is."

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