Foreword by Howard Saunders, The Retail Futurist

The word “retail” just doesn’t cover it. When we talk about the pain retail endured over the last eighteen months, it’s as if we are describing just another aspect of the economy that suffered during the pandemic.

This misses the point. We use the word ‘retail’ as an easy shorthand to describe the high street: the local cafés, bars, shops and restaurants we rely on to keep our towns alive and relevant.

We also use the word “retail” to help describe our bustling city centres with their awe-inspiring flagships, cinemas, theatres and restaurants that attract millions of visitors from right across the globe every year. The simple truth is that the high street is our community. Whether it’s meeting a friend for lunch or shopping for a special occasion, it’s where we connect with one another. Humans are a social species and a global, economy-stopping pandemic won’t change that in a hurry. 

If lockdown taught us one thing, it showed us how much we need our high streets with their supermarkets, bakeries, brand flagships, local coffee shops and handy hardware stores. The retail landscape is our social landscape. Having our ankles photographed by the delivery man every few days did little but confirm that consuming in a vacuum is ultimately rather meaningless. 

The high street really is the heart of the community and the engine of the economy. What else can lay claim to such mighty status? I’d like to think that perhaps we have also learnt that we must take better care of our retail economy. If we wish to live and work in vibrant, dynamic communities we must learn to nurture, encourage, support and no longer take it for granted. 

If we could see past our immediate and not inconsiderable hurdles, the era that awaits us is beyond exciting. In our major urban centres technology is poised to bring us more engaging and immersive branded spaces that will surely redefine the very term “retail”. At the same time, as our local communities recover we will witness the resurgence of young independents desperate to open shops, cafés and pop-ups that will bring innovation and enthusiasm back to our high streets. But if this is what we want, we must urgently make a plan. 

"Retail Reboot shines a bright light on the route out of our immediate predicament. In a practical and logical fashion it analyses and identifies a clear road to recovery. We must all work together on this. The future of the high street, our towns, cities and communities depends on us!"
- Howard Saunders, The Retail Futurist