Home / Writing / Report: The UK Networked High St
Report: The UK Networked High St

Report: The UK Networked High St

From UK High Street to Networked High Street

By Eva Pascoe & Niki Gomez

17 July 2013 (Last updated 26 Aug)

The UK high street is under assault from multiple threats, but the rise of online shopping is widely viewed as the biggest threat of all. While bricks and mortar sales have remained flat over the last five years, online sales have soared by 222 per cent – equal to an increase of £18.5bn.

And if high street retailers thought the worst tech tornado is behind them, they could not be more wrong. The pace of change is only going to get faster. The release of the 4G spectrum this August will allow online retail to offer such an immersive, exciting and user-friendly experience that today’s online shops will look positively medieval by comparison (Shopped, July 2013). In addition, the new, “same day delivery” option by Shutl (for Argos, Amazon and others) which rolled out in early 2013, is creating a lot of new Internet shoppers. Google will soon offer a similar service.

We see a chance to use the increasingly redundant stock of shops and warehouses into a #LessRetail mix on a new, Networked High Street where physical retail is just one of many sales and marketing channels. Local communities can flourish by adapting to technological advances : Libraries become hubs for E-lance working and  3d printing; and retailers network together to offer real-time, personalised deals to customers to buck the ‘showrooming’ trend of browsing in shops but buying online.


This Report is the technology contribution to the Future of Retail White Paper to be presented to the House of Commons in Sept 2013 as part of the Grimsey Review. It is intended as an aid for town planners and retailers in particular. It is building on the Portas’ Review of Dec 2011.

We would welcome feedback so please tweet or mail us.  In particular if you have any new technologies that are relevant.


Executive Summary

Traditional retail is disappearing from the high street quicker than you can say ‘Moore’s Law’.

Since the 1870s the UK High St has been constantly reinventing itself due to changes in technology. The question is how can it best transform itself into a hybrid high street- where physical retail is just one of many sales and marketing channels.

Can the UK’s High Streets reinvent themselves along with the shift to e-commerce that has reached 10% in most sectors, with 15% in sportswear and 18% in fashion? (BRC, March 2013)
We outline our solution: The Networked High St : Each player is a node in our high street, but rather than operating independently, they should operate as a network. They should respond in real-time to their consumers and to the other nodes.

Part One of this report looks briefly at the changes in the UK since the High Street’s inception in 1870 as a result of the industrial revolution, to the introduction of department stores and supermarkets. Often these changes were met with skepticism at first, which soon turned to huge acceptance and usage. The 1960s saw an influx of fast changing fashion chain stores, followed by the ubiquitous car that meant out of town stores flourished. However the credit boom in the 2000’s meant the High St boomed once again.

Recently however the success of online shopping which resulted from technological innovations such as the World Wide Web in 1993, secure online payments, broadband and then WiFi from 2001, along with the smartphone and tablet. This meant people started to ‘showroom’ (browse in shops but actually purchase online) and purchase on the go, for instance during their daily commute. Daily Deals were another big pull that traditional retailers were not offering. In 2011, 32 million people or 66% of adults in the UK had made on line purchases (ONS) and on average over 11% of shops in UK high streets were vacant.

Part Two looks at what the near future is likely to hold as a result of the introduction of the 4G spectrum. Our research shows that online retail is likely to offer a truly immersive, exciting and user-friendly experience going forward. The same day delivery from players like Shutl and Google, the ease of eBay indie eshops and free and simple e-commerce systems from WordPress will heighten this process. The rise in social shopping currently being led by Pinterest and Facebook, together with online-only credit schemes from the likes of PayPal and Wonga will seal the deal.

In Part Three we outline our proposed methodology to attain a Networked High Street at a local stakeholders network level to ensure that the community features that a high street bring are not erased forever. We propose to assess each of the 433 major UK high streets with their own unique set of characteristics and create a Tool Box that contains a Digital Fit audit based on the Digital Maturity of its customers.

Our Recommendations Towards a Networked High St

• Interconnect all participants from retail/food and beverage/services/libraries/gyms/local government/police/health service/education using a Web portal, introducing real-time bookings to all. This varies from free slots at the 3D printers, to bidding for restaurant places and nail bar sessions.

• Create a portal with easy to use pull-out dashboards, configurable to individual points of view, with need-to-know info only.

• Nodes can match and create personalised deals for customers. By developing a real time in-out crowd-flow monitoring of the High Street to allow retail/service providers/parking managers to respond flexibly to demand (leverage from car plates’ recognition system).

• Install sensors on parking locations to allow the real-time automated traffic manager to direct people to free spaces. Allow real-time pricing and introduce bidding for parking (mobile phone parking solutions already have capability) and enhance this by providing inputs from real-time car park usage.

• Develop StreetCred accounts which walkers and bikers would earn points for coming to visit car-less. This is networked to local retail/service providers/gyms/local governments to offer discounts in exchange for StreetCred points earned.

• Flexible use of vacant venues- each venue/landlord/agent to provide real-time bid-and-book I-USE (a web-based system, linked to a Networked High Street front page of the portal). This allows individuals, start-ups, independents and pop-ups to bid for unused stores. The use will be weighted preferentially and decided by local communities on the portal, i.e. food or retail depending on location, to deliver the best mix for each High Street.

• Libraries and leisure centers can host shared workspaces for freelancers as well as 3D printers and laser cutters that can be utilised for repairs, making and educational services.

The outcome of such as Dashboard is that a shared online calendar exists for goings-ons and deals for each town.

The Benefits of a Common Dasbhoard for Retailers/Service Providers include:

- Co-ordinated campaigns for maximum effect leading to increased knowledge of all other retailers’/service providers’ activity plan.
- The consumer is more informed as to what’s happening in his/her town.
- Create the Network of Networked High Streets – coordination of non-local campaigns run by retail/service providers to achieve maximum reach beyond immediate catchment area. All towns will eventually be integrated and run ‘adaptive marketing’.

In Part Four we outline five future scenarios that bring to life the recommendations above as well as detail the customised deals, e-freelancer work options, travel and transport data, customised ordering and social retail.

Finally we outline how the transformation of public facilities such as libraries and leisure centres will work.



Executive Summary
Part One: Ringing the Changes
Part Two: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
Part Three: Our Methodology: Your Town’s Digital Fit
Part Four: Future Scenarios

This is a work in progress. We’d love to hear your comments/feedback! 






From UK High Street to Networked High Street By Eva Pascoe & Niki Gomez 17 July 2013 (Last updated 26 Aug) The UK high street is under assault from multiple threats, but the rise of online shopping is widely viewed as the biggest threat of all. While bricks and mortar sales have remained flat over …

Review Overview

User Rating: Be the first one !

About cybersalon


  1. Hi,

    Thankyou for sharing this; it’s an interesting, imaginative and – in my view – realistic exploration of a high street of the future. The changes to our current high streets brought about by the evolution of technology can’t be reversed; but we are social beings and will respond positively to high streets that embrace technology to offer new services and experiences that cannot exist online.

    I see two challenges for this vision that I think need to be more fully explored, though:

    One that you acknowledge but that I feel needs to be addressed more directly and thoroughly is the importance of respecting the right to privacy, both digitally and in the physical world. 

    The noted urbanist Jane Jacobs based her understanding of cities on their need to create safety between strangers, and to do so by clearly delineating public and private space. The use of CCTV cameras and facial recognition to recognise shoppers and target focused messages to them from local shops is a useful technology capability; but one that could blur the distinction between public and private behaviour, both online and in the real world. I am not arguing that the idea isn’t perhaps a useful one for the high street of the future; and I agree with your point that the “opt-in” principle is the basis of getting it right; but I think that this subject has such challenging implications that it should be recognised right from the start and worked through properly to demonstrate that there are mutually acceptable benefits to both shoppers and retailers. (Here are my thoughts on the subject, for what they’re worth: http://theurbantechnologist.com/2013/04/24/privacy-in-digital-cities-google-glass-the-right-to-choose-and-the-enduring-legacy-of-jane-theurbantechnologist).

    The second challenge is: who will take the role of coordinating the interests of an ecosystem of individuals and businesses around a local high street into one that is collectively exploiting the ideas that you’ve explored? 

    I don’t think that will be as simple a role as facilitating collaboration (which in itself isn’t actually simple); I think it will involve the creation of legal and trading agreements; and even collective investment in technology infrastructure. Have you explored how that might come about? (Or do you disagree with me and think it will happen through some simpler process?)

    Thanks again for an interesting and, in my opinion, important paper. I’m making these points not in any way as criticisms, but in order to encourage a debate about how we might cause some of the ideas you’ve described to happen in practise,



  2. Hi,

    I think Rick’s comments are inciteful. I think that the public/private divide can be overcome. Rick’s other point is key:

    ” The second challenge is: who will take the role of coordinating the interests of an ecosystem of individuals and businesses around a local high street into one that is collectively exploiting the ideas that you’ve explored?”

    As I was reading the summary above which sounds very exciting, I noted that the infrastructure to make this vision a reality does not exist on the high street and there will need to be strong management from some source to make this happen. Perhaps this is a role for BIDs or some similar entity who can raise funds to make the investment necessary to make this happen.

    There will then need to be some sort of revenue stream to the overarching organising entity so that it becomes self-sustaining as it copes with ever rapidly increasing technological advances. Of course, by the time any technological solution is put in place with the investment costs, the system may well be obsolete as the next advancement evolves.

    But the ideas are exciting and starts to put some shape on the question of what is the next phase, now that we have all worked out the decline of the high street is unstoppable. Much more shape needs to go into this debate and a solid template of what towns can do to implement these strategies is needed.

    I look forward to the debate and the innovative thinking which the government must now give to this intractable problem. Can the government of the day rise to this challenge – hmmm, let’s see…

    Best Regards,

    Jessica Learmond-Criqui
    Spearhead of the Hampstead Shops Campaign

  3. Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this blog.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between usability and appearance.
    I must say that you’ve done a awesome job with this. Additionally, the blog loads extremely
    quick for me on Opera. Outstanding Blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Scroll To Top