The new energy that Mary Portas has been giving to the retail industry is absolutely fantastic.

She has made shoppers aware  of the difficulties of the sector and has forced a large part of the retailers to re-think their strategic vision of their business. Finally, she has managed to involve politicians at different levels: from the Prime Minister to the smallest town center organisations.

Discussing the recommendations of Mary Portas’ High Streets Review, commissioned by the Prime Minister and published before Christmas is not the goal of this post. One thing is for sure though that Mary Portas and her team managed to impose the subject and the concerns in the media. Every person involved in the retail industry should be grateful for this.

British high streets have been unloved and have lost a large part of their charm, their power of attraction, their footfall and profitability. A collective awareness with some well-thought targeted customised strategies developed at the local level might be the first steps to reviving British retail environment (with of course a bit of money as well).

Local councils and retail organisations should document the changes of this crucial industry moment. There is nothing more impactful than a well edited photo reportage to show the transformation of a place.

Involved organisations will need to show a before/after image of their high street to the contributors (financial and non financial). As we have seen it with the way Mary Portas managed to bring the subject in the heart of everyone’s discussions, journalists, bloggers and PR offices are key factors of success. Having the right photo story will impose a town center or a high street in the lights of the medias.

Photographers can of course report on the transformation and revival of a high street, but they can also create the right set of images to develop the footfall. A shopper’s journey  often starts online (visiting a city center’s website or a shopping guide) or in a magazine (where can I go shopping this week end?). Having impactful and vibrant photographs of your retail environment will probably say as much to a potential customer as 2 pages of text or a list of the shops available in the area : carefully edited pictures will show every store available in a more subtle way and with their own visual merchandising which is more attractive and will play a key role in the decision process of going shopping there or not.

Photography is often left at the last minute, even if it requires careful planning. This is a powerful communication and marketing tool that has been under-used by city councils and retail organisations in the past.  This new wave of energy brought by Mary Portas in the retail industry will hopefully be paired with the right usage of photography to help UK high streets renew themselves, change the perception in the shoppers’ minds and thrive again.

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