Claims that high street retailers have failed to evolve, which could result in a “post Christmas blood bath”, have been played down by Lancaster’s Chamber of Commerce.
British internet entrepeneur Dan Wagner claims that American export Black Friday looks to have extended the shelf-life of many high street retailers in Lancashire, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) retail sales report.
This highlights overall sales in November rising by 5.6 per cent and online sales increasing by 12.9 per cent compared to last November.
There is concern that the post-Christmas period will be a fragile time for the retail sector as rents become due, and for many companies it will be “make or break”.
Lancaster has experienced a double whammy of a fragile economy and major road and public realm works, which for some businesses has meant a year on year reduction in profits.
But the Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce said that the city needed to keep doing what it was doing to stay ahead.
Mr Wagner said: “It’s incredible that with High Street retailers spending so much on market research, they do not seem to have clocked on to the fact that their sales and customer engagement strategies are outdated and no longer reflect the habits of shoppers.
“It is apparent for me from the sharp rise in sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday that retailers have been caught napping and many now have left it too late to respond to the rapid changes in consumer behaviour.
“They did not factor in the widespread and rapid adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, with sales via these devices recording almost 50 per cent growth in 2014 (IMRG).
“Trends such as showrooming, with consumers making the effort to go in-store, only to later buy online after browsing competitors, are resulting in lost sales for the retailer.
“Consumers are driving this change and retailers need to review and innovate based on consumer behaviour – but the reality is that they have not innovated fast enough.
These retailers are fighting for their own survival and frankly, I am astonished that they have failed to predict and adapt their strategy to respond to this seismic shift which has the potential to decimate their businesses.”
Mr Wagner said that changes in business rates alone would not be enough to halt the tide.
He added: “The post-Christmas period will be a bigger blood-bath than last year, and for some retailers, it is already too late.”
Jerry North, chamber director and manager of St Nic’s Arcade said: “The chamber would always advise businesses to exercise caution when listening to the advice from business gurus who state that what’s wrong with your business can only be solved by buying a solution from my company!
Lancaster’s retail and leisure economy has worked hard this year to weather the storms of high street recession and traffic disruption.
“City centre businesses throughout the land are working hard to find the right balance between technology and product presentation to their customers.
“The best retailers such as John Lewis, M+S and Next have no intention of deserting the high street despite having developed excellent on-line offers.
“They know that real customer service starts with face to face interaction with a tangible product.
“Lancaster’s Street Market Traders know that too!
“Lancaster simply needs to keep doing what it’s doing to improve the visitor experience to ensure we build on what we already have as a great customer base... Lancastrians.”