Love Your High Street: Online shopping has caused tough trading conditions for shops

The Wedding Room, Bar Street
The Wedding Room, Bar Street

Shopkeepers who have backed The Scarborough News’ ‘Love Your High Street’ campaign have spoken of the issues they face in running their businesses.

The growth of online shopping is one of the main threats faced by retail giants, many of whom have decimated the number of branches they operate up and down the country in a bid to claw back millions of pounds worth of debts.

But an equally devastating effect has been perceived by some of those smaller independent businesses that add character to our towns, making them unique places that people want to visit and go back to.

In Scarborough, The Wedding Room is among those shops that have been affected by the recent trend to shop by the click of a button.

Although the boutique on Bar Street is well established, owner Hannah Baker admits that business has become tougher.

She said: “Things have definitely changed. People are more internet savvy, they want the best price for everything. They don’t take into consideration that our rent is extortionate and on top of that we’ve got business rates. Before we’ve even paid that and paid our staff’s wages, we’ve got to buy things at a wholesale cost as well.

“If we did all this from my lounge and we had a website, cost would be a lot cheaper, therefore things would be cheaper. We would never intentionally overcharge and if someone came in showing us a quote that they’ve seen, I would nine times out of 10 match it if I could. But the thing is that people are past that now. They don’t care so what they do is they come in here, they try on what they’ve seen online to check if they want it and then they get it elsewhere.

“People just want the best price and come here knowing exactly what we sell, the names, the brands... but we don’t work for free, there’s got to be something at the end of it and prices are like that for a reason.”

The rise in online shopping is not just down to convenience and cheaper price tags. According to Hannah, poor customer service is also to blame.

“I was in Asda last week and this woman was so rude. She didn’t want to help me, I asked where something was and she shrugged it off and said ‘well if it’s not here, look online”. I actually turned around and said that I knew they had it here and wanted to physically see it and buy it.

“That’s what people don’t understand. If you don’t put a smile on your face and don’t go the extra mile, why bother going into a shop? These people are building their own monsters.”

In Hannah’s view buying from a shop means knowing exactly what you’re getting and in the case of wedding dresses, there’s the extra benefit of making alterations.

Most importantly, choosing a shop over a website also means supporting the local economy and local employment.

“If people keep saying ‘oh I can find this cheaper online’ there would be no-one left. If you don’t leave your house and you buy stuff from websites like Amazon or eBay you’re supporting million-dollar companies. They don’t need all that. But if you buy from places like us you’re keeping people in jobs.

“We’re a family-run business, mum and I have been working here for 10 years and I hope that we’ll still be here in 10 years’ time. But I do worry. We’ve also started thinking if we should put our dresses online, but I’m backing away from it because I don’t want to do that. I want people to come through the door.”