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  • Samantha Steadman

Festive Flourish: High Street Retail Success

Updated: Apr 5

This holiday season, the resurgence of the high street is taking centre stage amidst the twinkling lights. With new openings, pop up festive stores and e-commerce making the move into the physical realm, traditional bricks and mortar stores are not just surviving but thriving in a world dominated by digital convenience. In this blog, we will explore the new trends and customer’s unwavering loyalty to the shopping experience breathing new life into the unique charm that makes the high street the beating heart of the retail industry.

Oxford Street [1]

Empty store numbers on London’s iconic shopping street are set to dwindle throughout the next year according to research from retail estate company Savills. The data predicts that vacancy levels will drop from 7.3% to 3.6% by the end of Q3 2024. With 11 new openings on the East End being secured over the past year and 8 further sites signed for or under offer, Oxford Street has benefitted from from “business rates reducing enticing retailers, the ongoing recovery of domestic and tourist spend and some landlords investing to make properties more attractive”, according to Savill’s Retail Director, Sam Foyle.

One such store which has reopened on the London shopping street after a 4 year absence is HMV at 363 Oxford Street [2]. The space is situated over three floors and includes a performance space on the first floor and a music venue on the second. Following the expanse of digitisation in media, demand for physical music and film has declined and so HMV was put into a position where it was forced to adapt to survive. A takeover by new owner Doug Putman in 2019 sparked a dramatic turnaround at the start of 2019 with an increased focus on Pop Culture merchandise at the heart of this switch.

The company is now back in the black posting a pre-tax profit of £1.97 million for the year to 30th May 2022 up from a loss of £231,000 and is returning to its London flagship store off the back of this. Putman has commented on the return saying, “363 Oxford Street is a homecoming for the brand and a clear statement about the strength of HMV, of London as a shopping destination and the state of music in the UK, so I can’t wait to welcome the fans through our doors.”

Manchester Arndale [3]

There has also been a flurry of new and renewed leasing at Manchester Arndale, including a major renewal and upsize for leading fashion retailer River Island. The renewal will see the extension of the lease for a further five years and expansion by 3,686sq feet to occupy a 22,415sq ft space. Other renewals include five year leases for The Watch Lab, Thomas Sabo and Claire’s and a brand new ten year lease for Mexican cuisine restaurant, Tortilla.

The continued appeal of the shopping location shows the Arndale’s ability to consistently attract and retain top tier operators enhancing the city’s shopping area and cementing its position as a leading destination in the heart of Manchester.

M&S November Store Openings [4]

This November, Marks & Spencer have made a big bet on bricks and mortar stores with six new stores and three store renewals opening over the month – the biggest number ever opened in a single month. The £80 million investment promises to create 2200 jobs and kicked off on 7th November with the opening of a 65,000sq ft full line store at the Bullring, Birmingham.

M&S Operations Director Sacha Berendiji commented, “Increasing numbers of customers are heading back into stores to experience the best of M&S all under one roof, supported by outstanding service from our colleagues, and we expect this to continue as we head into Christmas. To deliver our biggest ever store opening month which supports thousands of jobs is an outstanding effort from the team and shows just how serious we are about accelerating our rotation plans, so we are in the right locations for our customers.” 

Digital to Physical

Catalogue retailer Avon will open its first physical stores in the UK over the next two months [5]. Following the pandemic lockdown, when Avon reps were unable to go from door to door, the brand was pushed to review it’s strategy and this move into physical retail is a result of this change.

The stores are set to target neighbourhood communities rather than the usual high street locations and Angela Cretu, Avon’s International Global Chief Executive has commented on the opening of the stores, saying “Women like to touch and experience the product and have that joy of seeing all the colours available. Many customers go to the stores for an opportunity to try many of the products, or simply to enjoy a pamper experience with a beauty adviser.”

Amazon Fresh also opened its 20th store during the lead up to Christmas in Notting Hill [6]. With grand opening deals rotating week by week, the store will draw in customers looking to save at Christmas Time. The store offers freshly baked goods, lunch time meal deals and every day staples with customers able to pay at self checkout tills, tapping their credit card or scanning an in store code and paying via the Amazon app. Earlier this year, Andy Jassy, Managing Director of Amazon said the brand were ready to “go big” on physical stores and this new opening reasserts this promise.

Christmas Pop Ups [7]

On a more seasonal note, several online retailers have launched brick and mortar spaces to enhance their reach during this golden quarter.

ASOS for the first time secured a four storey pop up over Black Friday weekend, with digital and physical fitting rooms, a live DJ and bookable talks and workshops. Following reports of sales slump, no doubt the fashion retailer hopes this immersive shopping experience will create enough buzz to win back customers.

E-Commerce beauty retailers Glossier and LookFantastic have also opened festive pop ups. Glossier secured a two month space on Regent Street for the launch of their new perfume Glossier You. The brand have also gone down the immersive route with an AMSR room offering customers the opportunity to experience the scent through all five senses. LookFantastic occupied their physical space in London with fan favourites Drunk Elephant, Jo Malone and GHD available to purchase and complimentary branded coffee at their LookFantastic café.

Pre-loved items have also found spaces on the high street this holiday season with eBay, Depop and Amazon providing offerings this year. eBay took over HOFA gallery in Mayfair from 30th November – 2nd December offering second hand luxury handbags, jewellery and watches from brands including Chanel, Van Cleef and Rolex with their pop up ‘Taste Of Luxury’. DePop have curated an edit of handpicked vintage and designer items available to purchase on December weekends on Oxford Street and London’s Brunswick Centre was home to Amazon’s Second Chance Store until 12th December. The e-commerce giant partnered with Barnado’s to offer customers a chance to purchase returned or refurbed products in person.

With the high street thriving this festive period, why not take a trip into town to experience the unique magic of glittering decorations and the joyous hum of holiday shoppers? The high street continues to prove itself as far from obsolete creating an atmosphere and customer experience that digital platforms can’t quite replicate. Raise a glass to the heart of our towns and cities, flourishing with the spirit of Christmas and all year round!

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