A new scheme to turn Britain’s high streets and independent shops into a single, powerful on-line retail force is being piloted in the city of Hereford.
The initiative, entitled OpenHighStreet, combines the best of online retailing, the convenience of doorstep delivery with the quality and choice offered by local retailers. What’s more, as well as satisfying ‘Locavores’, OpenHighStreet is one of the greenest ways to shop as it makes available to consumers a lower carbon footprint route than driving to the shops. If the pilot proves successful, it will be rolled out across the UK.
Harking back to the days when you and your local butcher knew each other by name, OpenHighStreet allows consumers to browse and shop via an online version of their local high street as well as interact with each retailer. It also allows them to make one consolidated payment and have all the goods delivered at a time convenient to themselves. Alternatively, they have the choice of picking their shopping up from a central collection point as part of the school run or returning from work, for example.
From the consumers’ perspective, it’s a convenient, seamless process – a two-minute on-line sign up immediately opens the door to their online local high street. Browsing is by store or products with the ability to compare prices. Once the shopping is done, payment is made and a delivery slot booked. It’s even possible to track the van making your delivery.
For the local retailer or producer, the benefits include access to a nationally supported, electronic marketplace backed by regional delivery franchises. All the local retailer has to do is notify OpenHighStreet of inventory updates and special offers, fulfil the orders and prepare them for collection. OpenHighStreet then consolidates customer orders’ and delivers them.
The aim is to give shoppers more choice and independent retailers the ability to compete with other on line shopping options. OpenHighStreet will also help to breathe new life and vigour back into British high streets.
More than 30 retailers in Herefordshire are interested in participating in the scheme which is being backed by big names such as Unilever, Inzenka, Sequoia, Pi3, Eziserv and the governments’ Technology Strategy Board. It will be trialled for six months before being extended if it proves a success.
The growth of OpenHighStreet will be organic – almost a ripple effect. The majority of Herefordshire will be incorporated into the pilot followed by neighbouring counties such as Worcestershire and Shropshire.
Commenting on OpenHighStreet, Jonathan Bretherton, CEO of Hereford Futures, the group spearheading development in the city, said:
“Hereford is about to go through a vigorous period of growth. Thanks to partnerships with the likes of Stanhope, it is just about the only UK city that has a new retail development being built in 2012. Visit Herefordshire is also ramping up the annual food festival. These initiatives, along with OpenHighStreet and Hereford’s successful discount Truffle card, illustrate how big business and smaller independents can work together to ensure the city’s future prosperity”.
Richard Garnett, a member of the project team and a resident in Herefordshire, said:
“This is an innovative and interesting opportunity for retailers and customers to celebrate local business, enjoy local produce and benefit from the convenience and service that most of us expect but seldom experience. The team behind this pilot are eager to see the reaction from retailers and customers across the county and comments can be left on the www.OpenHighStreet.com web site.
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