Hi-tech high street puts the town top of nationwide table

    Survey shows traders are taking advantage of technology to boost business

    Tunbridge Wells High Street

    Tunbridge Wells tops the rankings as having the most modern high street in the country when it comes to adapting to technology, a new survey has revealed.

    Research undertaken by Worldpay – the FTSE 100 payment processing company – showed small businesses in the town outstripped their counterparts in major cities such as London, Glasgow and Birmingham in their use of technology.

    Warning that independent retailers are ‘in a race to stay relevant’, the company said there was significant ‘uncertainty and apprehension’ among small business owners in their attitudes to technology.

    While the businesses throughout the south east in general fared better than those in the north of the UK, where there is ‘more resistance to change’, Tunbridge Wells ‘in particular’ showed: “A great capacity to embrace and benefit from available technological advances.”

    Labelled ‘High Street to iStreet’, the survey, which was conducted by polling firm YouGov, is based on the responses of small businesses nationwide.

    A number of firms in each town and city were asked questions about the extent to which they are investing in technology to expand their reach online, improve the in-store experience and become more efficient.

    Based on their responses, a maximum score of 21 was available for each respondent, before being averaged out across each town.

    The average score for Tunbridge Wells was 12.6, with Ipswich in second place on 11.4, while London scored 10.6.
    The report continued: “What we’re seeing in Tunbridge Wells serves as testament to the incredible innovation taking place among small and independent retailers, many of whom are embracing new technologies to offer the kind of flexibility and experience modern shoppers demand.”

    Overall, just under two thirds of respondents to the nationwide survey said technology poses a ‘significant threat’ to their survival, and half said it can get in the way of providing a personalised experience to customers.

    However 88 per cent said understanding and embracing new technology represents their best chance of survival.

    UK Managing Director at Worldpay Dave Hobday said: “As far as retail and technology are concerned, the time for ‘wait and see’ has gone. Digital technology could unlock £18.8bn of revenue for SMEs, while reducing their costs by up to a fifth.

    “Whilst we’re seeing pockets of innovation in many corners of the UK, we also know that many small businesses are struggling to adapt.”

    THE ‘KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY’…

    The survey comes after the Times revealed in October that Tunbridge Wells has the highest proportion of people employed in the ‘knowledge economy’ than anywhere else in the county.

    Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that at the start of 2015 Tunbridge Wells had 23.4 per cent of those employed in jobs defi ned as being in the knowledge economy, exceeding the Kent average of 15 per cent.

    The ONS defines the knowledge economy as ‘a group of specific sectors that are knowledge intensive in their activity, deal extensively with IT and the distribution or exchange of the information that they hold’.

    It went on to state: “The knowledge economy has been identified as a key sector to drive future economic growth.”