Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Great British high street

A great video looking at what the British high street actually is. The video starts off looking at how big brands make up most of the shops within towns, claiming that 41% of towns around the country are described as "clone" towns. Towns dominated by well known retail brands and only a handful of independents. Much like Aberdeen where most brands have more than one store, some like Next having three!

It discusses keeping a balance of the big high street brands in order to get consumers on the street and the diversity of services and products that independents can offer to local towns.

"I prefer the smaller boutiques as before you can get one off items, rather than everybody wearing the same shoes." Quote from a Stevenage shopper.

Independent stores are good for local economy, they work and live within the towns so spend their money locally. They don't take their profits out of the local town like the big brands.

Norwich has managed to create a community of independent shops, this has been helped by the local council supporting them.

"If you shop in a chain of shops then you could be anywhere but if you've got independent shops then it helps retains the cities identity." Norwich shopper. I strongly agree, what is the point shopping in another town to buy something that you could have bought in your local town? Ever since Cult has opened in Aberdeen I've never seen so many Super Dry jackets!

"Google reports that 60% of consumers shop online for products they intend to buy in store so the high street still plays a role. People like to interact with product that they prior researched online or alternatively they do their research in the high street, then they order online."

This is where the high streets advantage lies, physical product experience. Through the use of technology, the Internet is pushing to replicate the the product experience with good presentation.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Some iconic names...

A long afternoon in Aberdeen's central library proved useful, throwing up lots of interesting imagery of a historic Aberdeen high street. Here are a couple examples and some thoughts.

Woolworth at its 1979 Union Street home
Located where Primark currently is on Union Street, an old household name that in 2008/9 succumbed to its debts and went into administration closing all of its 800+ high street shops. - BBC news article on closure.

Woolworths was a place to pick up bargains. In its later years it faced stiff competition from pound shops and supermarkets who began to offer the same kind of items so really lost its place in the market. 

However the name Woolworths has been "re-born" over the Internet. The name was purchased and turned into an Internet shop ( I have to admit I only discovered this myself whilst doing some background research into Woolworths. Having a browse around the website it is in a very competitive marketplace with Amazon and even eBay. The most interesting aspect though is that someone decided the brand itself was worth purchasing and turning into an online shop, nostalgia? As an Internet brand I think people are more likely to google Amazon or eBay over Woolworths.

My fond memories of Woolies was the cheap pick n' mix which they are offering online.

Bruce Miller & Co in George Street 1900-1984
Moving to Union Street in 1984 where it would remain until its closure in 2011 after 100 years in business. (

Bruce Millers was a very iconic, local independent business situated in Aberdeen. It's a great shame that a company with such local heritage has closed its doors for good. Independent shops offer a welcoming change from the super brands that are all very much in uniform nationally.

I would like to try get in touch with people who worked at Bruce Millers, especially the owners. This could prove fruitful in providing information of how trading over the years has changed and allow me to look at how graphic design has influenced a change in consumerism. Does good design and strong brands create enough desire that the high street is no longer required? 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ghost town...

The high street has been coming under increasing pressure from retail parks, shopping centres and the biggest of all, the Internet. With the rescission many high street names are closing their doors, but some have changed the way they operate. Some have headed down a root of Internet trading.

Esslemont & Macintosh was once a massive department store on Union Street in Aberdeen, closing its doors 5 May 2007. Ever since closing, leaving a huge store in Aberdeen boarded up. In the last couple of years many more retailers forced to follow the same path.

The purpose of this project is to look at how graphic design has been used by retailers and brands and how this has changed over the years to influence a change in consumerism. Looking at the influence of technology.