06 Dec 2023

Christmas offers lifeline to high streets but greater commitment needed, says Nationwide

  • Research from Nationwide shows Brits plan to shop local, 58% will visit their high street in show of support
  • It’s not just for the grandparents as younger generations plan to shop, eat, visit markets and get cash
  • Nationwide and SaveTheHighStreet.org call for big brands to commit to high street beyond Christmas
  • Britain’s biggest building society promises to not leave any town or city in which it is based until at least 2026

Christmas is set to give the long-struggling British High Street the boost it deserves as research shows that well over half the population will shop local in the coming weeks.

But more must be done by big brands to commit to the UK’s town centres next year in order to turn around the fortunes of ailing high streets up and down the country, says Britain’s biggest building society - Nationwide - and campaign group SaveTheHighStreet.org.

Nationwide’s UK-wide poll of more than 2,000 consumers reveals local shopping centres are the place to be this festive season with nearly six in 10 (58%) people planning to visit their local high street to support the local community. As 67% say visiting the local high street and enjoying the Christmas festivities helps give them that Christmassy, nostalgic feeling with 54% preferring to shop in a physical store than online.

But it’s not just the older generation planning to stay local for their Christmas shopping this year. The research shows 71% of 25-34 year olds are planning to visit the high street, proving the high street has appeal for everyone.

Stocking up on gifts and festive eats and sips comes top of the list of reasons people plan to visit their local high street, with eight in ten (80%) intending to visit their local high street up to ten times1 for a range of reasons, including:

  • Buying presents (47%)
  • Purchasing festive food and drink (38%)
  • Visiting local markets (35%)
  • Seeing the Christmas lights and decorations (33%)
  • Withdrawing cash (18%) or pay in cash or cheques (10%)

Despite this seasonal show of local festive support, the high street needs big ‘anchor’ brands like Nationwide to commit to help smaller retailers to keep and create these valuable communities. Nationwide and Savethehighstreet.org are urging businesses to commit to stay on the high street well beyond the busy Christmas period to avoid many more falling into a dire state next year.

Nationwide Building Society and campaign group SaveTheHighStreet.org to call for big high street players to commit to staying in UK towns and cities – as Nationwide has done - or risk further decline due to the detrimental impact closing has on smaller and independent retailers.

In contrast to the big banks, which have closed the doors to 2,107 branches across five years, Nationwide this year renewed its promise not to leave any town or city in which it is based without a branch until at least 2026. It is now the single biggest financial services brand on the high street. Footfall has increased, with some branches now back to pre-pandemic levels. Almost half of all fixed rate savings products are opened in branches. Nationwide attributes much of this to a structural shift in people’s working and shopping patterns since the pandemic.

Mandy Beech, Director of Retail Services at Nationwide, said: “People and communities still very much want to visit their local high street. But the challenge we face is that without a longer-term commitment from big brands, consumers will have less and less reason to visit them other than at Christmas. Our customers are telling us they still want branches and our Branch Promise ensures we are committing as far into the future as we can. The fact we are seeing our branches get busier shows that not only do people value them but that they are still very much using them.”

Alex Schlagman, Founding Partner of SaveTheHighStreet.org, said. “Successful high streets benefit everyone through the festive periods and beyond. Alongside a diverse and thriving independent sector, it’s important that high streets also have strong anchor brands. Most of the department stores that once anchored our high streets have now disappeared, leaving huge voids that need to be reimagined and repopulated with the offerings that people now want locally. This is a huge opportunity to change high streets for the better in 2024 and we are calling brands, both big and small, as well as anyone who cares about the future of our high streets, to join this movement.”