In my view: Driven by demand

Ask anyone locally and we all seem to agree that Chichester is a mighty fine place to live, work, shop and be entertained.

Yet we have seen significant changes to our high streets: less independents, more cafes and the march of the chains. What’s going on?

Well, shoppers are simply calling time on the old way of doing things. One fifth of all shopping for commodities – books, clothes, food, holidays, that kind of thing – now takes place online. This is a national phenomenon. People are still taking to the streets, but looking for something else.

Luckily we are a canny nation of business owners who have always allowed the market to decide.

Just setting up shop with what we would like to sell no longer cuts the mustard when our customers can get a lot of it online, and brought to their door, for less. Irresistibly convenient.

So shoppers just got more demanding. Actually, they want to find things in Chichester that they can’t get online: experiential benefits like a chance to meet friends over a decent coffee or enjoy a nice meal they haven’t had to cook, a well-being offer, quality entertainment, an opportunity to learn something new, feed a passion for history, live like a local down at the food market; and yes – go shopping for the customer experience they just can’t get online.

The customer wants a convenience chain-store buy, advised by a savvy and personable salesperson who knows just what they like, click and collect, a chance to try before you buy within a 10-minute walk and without the hassle.

Then onto that quirky independent shop discovered down an unexplored twitten, with seductive personal service, followed by an impulse buy with no regrets.

Shopping as entertainment, distraction, fun and novelty.

Luckily, Chichester has never been just about shops. We’ve got brilliant culture and heritage, fabulous opportunities for holiday fun and well-honed services to our demanding community. A great opportunity to meet these new shoppers head on. In the jargon: no longer led by our supply but driven by their demand. That’s the trick.