Can ‘Community’ fix the High St.


What does that mean to you?

Our lives are influenced by many aspects of modern life. Over the past 2, maybe 3 years our desire to be a part of a community has been growing and deepening. It might be an online community, a local one, an interest group, a cause; the one constant is the deeply rooted desire to be a part of something that connects a group of people together. And perhaps unexpectedly, young people seek this sense of sharing in a community more than most.

Maybe our natural world is also responsible for encouraging this in humans; there has never been a time when humans have had a stronger desire to ‘connect with nature’ than now. Community is defined in the English Oxford Dictionary under a sub-heading ‘ecology’: A group of interdependent plants or animals growing or living together in natural conditions or occupying a specified habitat.

This seems to me to be a pretty good description of what we all seek, the quest is in searching for and finding what our ‘growing or living together’ is.

Finding, developing, enjoying, living in, a sense of community has become and will continue to be something we all desire and love to experience. In 1961 Jane Jacobs wrote a book called ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. In it she wrote a paragraph that struck a chord with me and I believe also adds to our understanding of what ‘Community’ is, or might be. Jane was actually writing about ‘Trust’ in the Community, but it occurs to me that what she describes as building Trust, is also building ‘a sense of community’. Jane wrote:

The trust of a great city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts. It grows out of people stopping by at the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer and giving advice to the newsstand man, comparing opinions with other customers at the bakery and nodding hello to the two boys drinking pop on the stoop, hearing about a job from the hardware man and borrowing a dollar from the druggist.

Most of it is ostensibly utterly trivial, but the sum is not trivial at all. The sum of such casual, public contact at the local level – most of it fortuitous, most of it associated with errands – is a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, and a resource in time of personal or neighbourhood need…”

Interesting as it might all be, how does any of this relate to ‘fixing the High Street’ I can hear you asking.

Well, one strong consumer trend & desire is to find, join, enjoy, share & experience a community. It seems obvious then (in my opinion), that retailers should put urgent effort into something that’s simple to do and that will gain bigger, faster, more sustainable and considerably more satisfying results, than constant data analysis.

What simple thing?

Build an enjoyable retail experience by making your shop a place of local community.

Image – University of Northampton

Go through Jane Jacob’s paragraph line by line and have in mind that ‘the city’ is ‘your shop’. It might read:

The trust of a great shop is formed over time from many, many little public contacts. It grows out of people popping in for a coffee, getting advice from Tom or Freda (they love helping customers), giving advice to other shoppers, comparing opinions with staff & other customers about interior styling and nodding a hello to the couple trying the XYZ item, hearing about a great new color from the in-house expert and borrowing a sample being returned by another.

Most of it is ostensibly trivial, but the customer experience & enjoyment sum of it is not trivial at all. The sum of such homely, friendly & relaxed contact at this local community level, most of it serendipitous, is a feeling for the public identity of a local store and those that visit it. A web of public support, patronage & growth in a time of consumer & retail community need ……

Could you serve tea & coffee in your store, could you encourage shoppers to mix, chat, share and be a part of your community? After all, they already have a common interest, they have visited your shop. Do you have music playing for the entertainment of your staff, or for the enjoyment of your customers? What unexpected surprises have you for me whilst I browse your products? What stories does your merchandising begin for me to complete?

Do you have a ‘wow’ installation in-store to inspire me? Is your shop full of color? Do you make sure that my sense of smell is engaged? Our sense of smell is reckoned to be a fast-track to the brain-system that controls emotion & memory. How powerful is that in a place trying to create a sense of community?

Do you offer events/workshops that will help your community to get the most out of what they buy from you; or even that have only a loose connection to what your business is about, but have everything to do with making people in your community feel relaxed & comfortable in your place of community?

Make your shop, a community, a complete and joyful experience that your customers will want to tell others about, return to be a part of regularly and invite their friends and family to be a part of.

Retailers could of course, continue to display & sell product and such retailers may indeed survive, even meet success. But the vast majority of consumers are awakening to an undeniable, deepening desire for experiences & community.

If you have any questions, or think that we might be able to help you (we definitely can) create a store / shop / showroom that will be an instant hit with your present & future customers get in touch with us:

Email: Phil or, text/call/whatsapp +44 7896 088 996

Even send me a postcard (I love those) and I’ll call you:                                                   Scarlet Opus, Colonial House, Swinemoor Lane, Beverley, UK. HU17 0LS

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