Monthly Archives: June 2019

Innovation in our high streets is a continuous journey

Business Blog

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced in May 2019 that a new £62m fund will breathe new life into historic high streets across the country. High streets lie at the heart of communities but as we know, are under increasing pressure as more people choose to shop online, visit out of town stores and business rates and rents escalate. But are the high streets dying or are they just going through a period of evolution to meet the generational shifts in shopping habits and remain relevant?

Let’s not forget one very important thing, that across the country, people still enjoy going shopping, shops are not going to disappear and 89% of UK sales are still generated through physical retail. The problem is that many brick and mortar retailers have either not listened or been too slow to react to the changing social and economic factors that have impacted their business models.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today as it did then, is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format and Generation X and Z are not ignorant to poor retail.

A belligerent approach only serves to insult your existing and potential customers. That’s why they’ve abandoned trusted retailers and by doing so, they are clearly stating that it’s you not them that’s the problem. This has resulted in a flurry of panicked shop closures, as retailers wake up to the fact that they should have reviewed their estates years ago before calling in the administrators.

So, alongside this and any other Government initiative we need traditional brick and mortar retailers to be imaginative and visionary to make retail work for them and their customers. And I don’t think we’ve seen enough of this. There’s been some successes where traditional retail chains and independents have introduced successful in-store experiences such as speaker spaces to free cookery classes to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere.

We’ve also seen successful buy outs where we see anchor brands amalgamate multiple brands under one roof such as Sainsbury’s and Argos (Store within a Store concept – SiS). This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

The above concept appears to work, and this is where I think retail strategies need to be disruptive. As the pioneer of mail order fashion, reimagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. If we look at their flagship store on London’s Oxford Street it includes brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store.

Surely independents and chains sharing space makes sense from a financial and marketing perspective and works for all collaborations, whether it’s an anchor brand and SiS or two brands in equal partnership. Let’s take my local high street, where there is a bookshop with a coffee shop and this unsurprisingly works well. So why don’t we see such partnerships more often with, say, independent clothes and shoe shops hooking up or cook shops and delis collaborating and complimenting one another.

I’ve been in the industry over twenty years so I’m not naive enough to think this is easy but retail is the most dynamic of industries and is tough. It requires a major re-think of the whole supply chain from landlords to legal and introducing new innovations like retail matching services. There are all sorts of challenges – what happens if one brand is doing well, and the other isn’t, if one wants to sell and one doesn’t? But we’re at an impasse where something drastic needs to happen for us to re-imagine the high street. And drastic means disruption and innovation.

With a staggering 2,481 stores disappearing off the High Street in 2018, the opportunity to split the overheads in tough economic times impacted by changing shopping habits, this is a successful combination for both retailer and shopper. For retail, appealing to all generations is the way forward, enhancing the environment in which we want to shop in and the customer journey association to brands. Retailers need to stop feeling their way in the dark. The solution is there. Look around.

To read the full article please visit London Loves Business.

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Wearables for all: How the decade’s most hyped technology has found its groove

PCR Blog

There was much talk of wearable technology in the early part of this decade and in what can only be described as a media frenzy. Google launched its hotly awaited Google Glass in 2012. It was everywhere, Diane von Furstenberg used the product on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, while Virgin Atlantic tied up with the brand for flight crew to check in passengers on selected trans-Atlantic flights. Whilst available to a selected group of subscribers, it unfortunately never made the shelves but set the pace as the pioneer.

The sale of smartwatches and trackers such as the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex accelerated in 2013 and things started to evolve rapidly. Then in 2015 we saw the launch of the first Apple Watch. While there has been commentary on the demise of the whole category with Jawbone already defunct, smartwatches are still the only product where we’ve seen continued sales and enhanced innovation, with luxury brands like TAG Heuer launching a range of Google Wear OS devices. According to Statista, global wearable technology sales in 2018 were 123 million units, with trackers making up 15 million and smartwatches 80 million. Watches are still growing faster than any other category and forecasted by CCS Insight to reach 142 million units worldwide in 2019 and a staggering 260 million units by 2023.

There’s little doubt we’ve come to a point where the market is less about the consumer tech and gadgets that we might see in store and rather more about the application of wearable technology – driven by trackers and smartwatches – into other fields such as health and wellbeing that are having a real and valuable impact on people’s lives.

Wearables are evolving. Motiv’s smart ring won Breakout of the Year at the Wearable Tech Awards 2018, but the jury is still out on its success. Looking at the exhibitors at 2019’s Wearable Technology Show, it indicates that there’s more than just smartwatches, but many innovations are being driven by health and wellbeing.

Looking at the impact automated insulin delivery has on patients and parents of children with severe diabetes, WELT is well documented and was one of the most talked about pieces of tech from CES 19. The new SMART belt from Samsung, launched at IFA 2018, can help tackle one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century, rising obesity. The belt can monitor weight, walking speed, sitting duration and eating habits. Another interesting application of wearable tech is Quell 2.0. This over the device wearable from Neurometrix uses advanced neurotechnology to stimulate sensor nerves sending neural pulses to the brain and blocking pain signals. The device is designed to block multiple types and sources of pain.

Innovation in wearable technology is as big as manufacturers dare it to be and wearable tech used today has evolved to be practical and convenient to make our daily lives more efficient. For resellers it’s interesting to note that it’s claimed that one in ten wearable owners have two or more devices, with those who don’t currently own a wearable stating that they are in the market for one. Research shows that fitness devices and smartwatches are equally wanted to aid in health, detect calorie intake, assess overall fitness and provide stress measurements.

Advances in nanotechnology, batteries and microprocessors have meant the devices can be small and lightweight. It therefore looks to me like the future of wearable tech is in the sublime not the ridiculous. Tech companies that succeed will be the ones that understand consumer behaviour and are solving real world customer needs or problems, rather than just focusing on ‘what’s possible’. Linked to real time data and tapping into human needs, its potential now does seem potentially revolutionary, with applications in health being a particular game-changer for the wearables category.

This decade’s most hyped of technologies has found its groove, enabling not just athletes to monitor wellbeing and lifestyle but for all manner of consumers and in a variety of exciting form factors.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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