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Retail in the Roaring 20's - What are the Exciting Opportunities Awaiting?

  • Marcus Fox Group Managing Director | iD Agency

Retail in the roaring 2020’s - explore why now’s the time to experiment with your retail estate and semi-permanent stores.

There has never been so much opportunity in the retail market for retailers (new and established), to test and learn via the semi-permanent retailing space. Post lockdown, consumers are craving a deeper and more emotional relationship with brands – this can sometimes only be delivered through physical retail stores. As retail brands adjust to a new symbiotic existence with online purchasing, both channels will become increasingly harmonised. SO WHAT IS OUR DEFINITION OF A SEMI-PERMANENT STORE? As the role of the retail store is evolving, successful and progressive retailers are defining a new era of agile retailing – meaning shorter and more flexible commitments, modular and adaptable builds, as well as experiential and entertainment-led retail concepts. As a result of this we have seen stores being designed, built, and opened in a matter of days, not months; and knocking zero’s off - and this fundamental shift is liberating and exciting, but also enabling for whom retail stores may have previously been a commitment too far. These modern shopping spaces act collectively as centers of omnichannel consumer excellence, showrooming hubs for a product demonstration, or as classic marketing, raising brand awareness. Often centered in the heart of urban communities, these store doors are enticing new and previously untapped customers, strategically placed in an area you may have been previously unable to trade in. Suzanne Harlow Ex-CEO of Jack Wills recently noted that; ‘Pop-ups were some of our most profitable stores, they are a great opportunity to get some trialing and testing done.’

WHAT ARE THE MAIN COMPONENTS OF SUCCESSFUL SEMI-PERMANENT STORES? Location Covid-19 has seen the retail landscape fundamentally disrupted, property once considered a premium (with a price tag to match) is suddenly less desirable or no longer tenable. As Gartner states, ‘Post-pandemic, over 40% of workers are likely to work remotely at least some of the time.’ It is challenging for brands to determine the ‘right place to be’ with consumers in such unprecedented flux. A semi-permanent store format can help bridge that gap, giving options to rapidly reassess locations; you could be in a seasonal holiday destination, or within a larger multi-brand space in collaboration with like-minded brands within your customer's ecosystem. Savvy brand partnerships or sub-leasing opportunities take advantage of existing footfall to an area or product that already attracts your target customers. “Semi-permanent stores will drive innovation and accessibility into retailing - allowing more brands to test, learn and improve”. Renegotiation This shift has also shattered traditional leasing structures as we know them, the conversation now is to ask if you want to sign up for 6-months rather than 15 years. There is a world of opportunity open to those who can think differently about their physical retail estate, even compared to 18 months ago. Turnover rents, flexible lease terms, rates attribution – are all negotiable possibilities for those prepared to hold their own in the process.

Purpose The purpose of ‘the store’ has also completely changed. Retail stores are no longer just about a transactional experience. In fact, in many cases, they aren’t about transacting at all! Despite the industry broadly recognising the importance of creating something ‘more’ for their customers – an experience, a memory, a shareable moment – it still fails to think of a physical store as advertising. An often-key oversight is the lack of recognition for stores’ value as a driver of online sales, and we have already seen the uplift of online sales by up to 30% in catchment areas when a brand has opened a new store. Accenture recently gave a brief explanation as to why; ‘From baby boomers, through Gen Z’ers to today’s millennials, 41% of all three groups practice showrooming.” Epsom has reported that ‘65% of UK consumers would change their shopping behaviour if retail outlets were more experiential.’ The average dwell time for a consumer in an experiential format is 13 minutes, which is 300 times longer than for a piece of digital content. Imagine, CMO’s of the UK, what you can do with 13 uninterrupted minutes of consumer attention… Creating an experience is particularly effective in driving brand discovery and consideration. When a store environment is both immersive, playful, and puts the customers’ needs first, with commercial value attained as a consequence rather than the primary driver, they fast become a huge profit driver.

The New Employee Front-of-house employees see your customers every day; tap into their insights and perspectives to help design experiences that your customers really want. More urgently, retailers need to upheave the traditional ‘transactional sales’ role to ‘cast member,’ with everyone playing their part in a show intended to delight the customer and demonstrate products in a fun and physical way. That’s a totally different skill set and requires a different attraction, training, and management strategy. Your team are brand ambassadors and need the space and training to do so. Remember, exceptional service is not the same as experience; they are both essential, but one is expected, the other is anticipated. “Reset your thinking about the entire retail operating model; flexibility & innovation must drive your strategy”.

Grab The Agile Retail Opportunity Re-frame the thinking about your entire retail operating model; flexibility and innovation must drive your strategy Semi-permanent stores to allow you to explore the wondrous opportunities for retail in 2021. Challenge your business to see stores as way more than profit/loss centers - the store P&L is too simplistic to measure the true advertising value of your physical stores, driving both in-store and online sales. Established brands with a footprint of physical retail stores should be thinking about portfolio diversification – considering additional, agile, or responsive spaces. Online brands should be thinking about how to enter the physical retail space at the best possible moment (now!) and how to do so without the trials and tribulations of those who came before Semi-permanent stores should become the normal extension of your omnichannel offering; we believe that incumbency, and reluctance to unbalance an existing estate is no reason to accept inflexibility for the future. This article was also published in The Retailer, the BRC's quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.

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