How innovation forced by the pandemic could boost Main Street



The changes forced on the retail industry go far beyond one-way systems and limited capacity in shops – the online shopping boom increased convenience through features like digital dressing rooms, as well as extending returns while the pandemic uncertainty continued.

COVID-19 has accelerated these changes at an unprecedented speed – but what's in store for Main Street now? Are the days of shops gone for good, or is there a gap in the market for a hybrid, combining the convenience of online with the social aspect of in-store assistance?


Mark Pilkington is a retail and brand expert, entrepreneur, "motivationalist" and director of, a consultancy that envisages what the future of the sector looks like and advises businesses in making decisions to adjust and prepare accordingly. 

He's also the author of Sorry we're closed – Why your High Street is Closing Down! And how to bring it back to life as well as Retail Therapy: Why the retail industry is broken – and how to fix it.

During his 30-year career, he joined the FTSE 100 corporation Courtaulds – a lingerie brand – and developed the "Wonderbra," which created a media storm in Europe and the U.S. and went on to become a global best-seller.

During the launch of, Pilkington gained major media coverage by organizing a tennis match between Jeff Bezos and tennis star Anna Kournikova, who was the face of "Shock Absorber" – a high technology sports bra that he also created. As a result, Pilkington won two Queen's Awards for Exports and was honored by the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America.

He is currently working with U-Mark, a Saudi company with businesses in sports retailing and household electronics.


Pilkington says that rather than the loss of Main Street, the nature of the spaces in which items are sold has been undergoing some serious retail therapy.

He says the pandemic has resulted in "10 years' worth of development in just a few short months," with companies becoming more customer-focused and innovative. He also explains that the shopping experience will be different but will still have a lot to offer, with more exciting unique settings, smaller pop-up shops and more original produce.


Pilkington is very optimistic about there being a more exciting version of retail.

"There's been a lot of damage, but now rents are coming down and leases are being made more flexible. The retail property market, the people who own the malls and high streets, have had to change their policies and that is now becoming more attractive for people to start shops," he explains. 

"It used to be that there were very high barriers to entry for starting chains of shops or brands. The internet came along with things like Shopify websites, and it became extremely easy to launch a brand online. And we've seen a huge level of innovation and a real flourishing of online brands, with not only lots of new brands, but also lots of new products and new ideas. 

"So that part has really flourished – but it hasn't broken out into the High Street because the High Street has still been a very expensive place to trade.

"I actually think that if we move forward with technology rates, changes to rents and leases, that a lot of those online innovative brands will break out onto the High Street over the next 10 years, and we're going to see a lot more innovation such as smaller brands and pop-up shops. It will become a bit more exciting than it was, because, let's face it, although we mourn for the High Street, it was actually a fairly boring place in the past 20 years or so."


- Senior psychology lecturer Nadia Svirydzenka and therapist Anjali Singh-Mitter discuss the anxiety surrounding lockdowns and how some people are struggling to re-enter society after more than a year of shielding themselves from COVID-19, and the importance of allowing people to go at their own pace as they try to reintegrate into society following fear and unprecedented change.

Nadia Pendleton, former duty manager at Gordon Ramsay Holdings and a hospitality consultant of 17 years joins Stephen Cole to discuss which pandemic trends will stay and which will go. Pendleton believes that some customers will still opt for having fresh boxed ingredients delivered that they then cook at home, but most will want to be back in sociable spaces after saving money during lockdowns. She also discusses the "absolute crisis" of staff shortages facing the sector and how hospitality is expected to make itself a more appealing place to work as the hospitality hiatus eases around parts of Europe.

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