New app wants to tackle UK high street crisis

An app that’s been designed to give a new lease of life to Britain’s dying high streets has launched after raising £200,000 from the Development Bank of Wales.

The app, which provides high-street businesses with the digital tools to help them take on major retail chains, is being tested on Cowbridge high street.

It gives smaller outlets the digital means to get their products in front of the wider community. For instance, users can alert customers that new stock has arrived and about new deals.

There’s also a messaging function that lets customers communicate with high-street businesses, as well as a functionality to help them complete financial transactions quickly.

Working with technologists at the University of South Wales, the app has even integrated an augmented reality feature that enables shoppers to interact with adverts.

The start-up, which is based at Welsh ICE in Caerphilly, is supported by the TownSquare Accelerator and NatWest’s Entrepreneurial Spark.

Maths teacher Victoria Mann decided to create the app when she was one day sat in an empty chair at a local salon. “I thought there must be a way to fill those chairs and attract new customers at the same time,” she said.

“An app that would push out current shop front advertising into the palms of the hands of each smart phone user nearby.

“I knew it would benefit so many other businesses on the high street who need to get the word out to the local community and communicate with them on a responsive and immediate basis.

“The butcher with an overstock of meat or the baker with a freshly baked batch of bread – all those businesses have something to share and need to get the word out at the right time to the right people.”

The launch of the app comes as new research from PwC shows that 16 high streets closed daily in 2017. Victoria said she’s on a mission to save brick and mortar retail.

“Research shows that high street store openings are at their lowest in seven years, while the number of stores closing continues to grow,” she added.

“Our high streets are under increasing pressure from online competition and yet, many people I speak too are still keen to buy local and use regional shops and suppliers.

“We felt the potential for communities and local economies to reap the benefits of digital was not being realised. Through NearMeNow, we hope to re-energise the traditional high street model delivering the most innovative technology, while at the same time digitally upskilling traders.”

 “We’re looking forward to seeing how the pilot performs in Cowbridge, with plans afoot to roll it out across the whole of the UK.”