Shoppers are looking for better use of their spare time, embracing hospitality, events and social-based activities in store. We’ve seen extreme format experimentation, from flagship to hyper-local boutiques from the same brands; these brands go where the customer goes, when the customer goes. Pure play businesses like Missguided are launching new ‘conventional’ retail spaces to challenge the established players, doing it their way with confidence. Traditionally they offered the ultimate convenience, but when online brands occupy real estate they can step up with a truly immersive concept, heavy on attitude and experience.
There are many big questions in retail today, especially around the relevance and purpose of physical stores: why build shops in this digital world? What is the definition of a shop? What role does a shop fulfil in the development of a brand?
We’re being challenged to maximise experiences for the greatest return – a return not always based purely on turnover, but on brand building and customer engagement. A new return on investment can be considered return on involvement. The best stores in the future may not even sell anything: stores can be educational, experiential, social or simply a form of advertising, but above all, they should be engaging.
Our clients, from Mamas & Papas to David Jones, are creating experiences. They recognise the issues of appearing disconnected or out of touch with their potential consumer, and they sort it out. Our recent concept for O2 is a true example of social retail – a gentler, more exclusive service proposition, where the customer is encouraged to dwell and get to know the brand in a low-pressure non-selling style, rare in its sector.
Rockar continues to disrupt automotive sales with a powerful store for Jaguar Land Rover at Westfield Stratford, proving that shopping in store is not just a commodity market, it can feel premium and relevant at any level. We will see the continued rise of manufacturing brands – Samsung, Jaguar, Apple, Dyson – bypassing conventional retail channels and going it alone on the high street or in the mall.
There’s no doubt that the retail landscape is shifting. Where it settles is uncertain, but the shift is remarkable.