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Destination Marketing – The High Street

How do you market a destination in 2019? Especially a destination with as many challenges as the high street? Let’s consider the landscape first.

Since the turn of the century, retailers in the high street have struggled to keep up with the insurgence of online shopping. In particular, Amazon and ASOS have made online shopping so easy and convenient that many shoppers have migrated at the expense of the high street. This has happened to such a scale that once behemoth retailers such as Toys R Us, Maplin, House of Fraser, Debenhams, to name a few, have either closed a significant number of stores or even gone into Administration. As online retailers continue to innovate with fast and cheap delivery, advantageous account services and improve the online shopping experience, can the high street compete?

To answer this question fully, we wanted to investigate what made thriving destinations successful. So we decided to immerse ourselves in local popular destinations and research these areas by speaking to the people responsible for making them a success. 

Combined with our destination marketing expertise, here’s our take on how the high street can survive:

Do your research:

Find out what the people want. Don’t assume that all high streets and town centres are the same, don’t presume you know what’s best. Find out key questions such as; What are the barriers discouraging people from visiting a destination? What would encourage people to visit more frequently? It’s important to find out the most effective marketing channels. Is social media the right way to promote a destination? This depends if the audience are active on social media. The more in-depth the research, the better the insight. Better insight will allow you to create a more effective marketing strategy.

Create a brand

Give the destination a brand identity. The essence of this identity must be formed from the research conducted. It has to be authentic for it to be believable and appealing to the target audience. A brand identity should be the face of the destination and be associated with all the positive activity.

Focus on leisure and entertainment

If all a high street has to offer is like for like retail products with online, it will never be able to compete. But if a high street has a vibrant leisure and entertainment scene, people will come. With increasing disposable income in the UK and a busy work-life balance, there’s a desire for people to make the most of their free time. Local people want somewhere nice to go out and enjoy themselves, and they will support local businesses that offer what they want. A focus on leisure and entertainment intrinsically benefits retail, as people will inevitably visit the retailers if they are already in the town.

Small independents 

Providing a unique offering is key to high street success. To quote the House of commons High streets and town centres in 2030 report“to compete and be successful, high street retail needs to carve out a separate role, focusing on providing “experience” and “convenience”. There is certainly a shift in desire to shop in small independents rather than the big chains. Small independents can offer a very personal service and make the experience special for customers. In local communities, there is usually a desire to support small businesses, especially when the owner is a local person. If independents can put a unique twist on the offering and provide personal customer service, this gives people a reason to go to the extra effort to visit, rather than default to online.


One clear vision and plan with all stakeholders (businesses, councils, Business improvement Districts and developers) is crucial. Everyone has to work together and pull in the same direction. It does requires hard work, commitment and investment (time and financial) to make this a success. Engage with the local community and get input on the plans from as many people as you can. The more people feel involved and their view taken on board, the greater the buy will be. Put the community at the heart of what you do. B2B support is also important. Recommend other businesses and consider partnership initiatives – success breeds success. 


Positive changes may be afoot, but it’s essential to get the news out there, PR will play a huge roll in any successful plan. Keep them updated with news of events, offers and any positive goings on (for example, free parking on Thursday afternoon). With regeneration projects or new developments it’s important to communicate to the public and businesses about the plans, updates on the progress and demonstrable benefits to the audience. There can be a lot of inconvenience with noise, traffic, road closures and change to what’s familiar so a regular stream of good news is vital.

Marketing Campaign

Key to the success of a destination is the Marketing. People won’t come if they don’t know about the offering or the benefit to them. The marketing material should be reaching the target audience within the local community, but also the surrounding areas. Successful destinations must have compelling marketing campaigns to compete with other destinations and online. Online will continue to innovate and improve the offering, so destinations must communicate their offering and convince people to get off the sofa and down to the high street. 

This blog post is just a snippet of our knowledge on destination marketing. Do you want help in marketing a destination? Then look no further than Cunning Plan. We are experts in destination marketing. Click the ‘come with us’ button on the right of your screen to get in touch, we’d love to hear from you!