Tag Archives: high street

Is a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme enough to boost UK retail?

With the vast majority of Covid-19 restrictions lifted, there have been calls for a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme – in the same vein as last year’s Eat Out to Help Out – to help the embattled retail sector. Retail Gazette speaks to experts to find out it would be enough to help high streets recover.

At the beginning of the month, a petition to introduce a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme was launched in a bid to help struggling independent high street retailers.

The idea, instigated by membership programme Refundable and in the same vein as the Eat Out to Help Out last summer, calls for customers to be rewarded a 50 per cent 50 per cent rebate when shopping in small or independent retailers that employer fewer than 10 staff.

With over thousands of shops having closed permanently within the last year, the scheme could potentially act as a lifeline to retailers, providing them with a safety net as they emerge from restrictions.

Refundable is currently encouraging both consumers and retailers to sign the petition, with the goal of reaching 100,000 signatures.

While it is clear that smaller retailers need more support during the transition back to normality in the wake of “freedom day” earlier this week, there are still doubts that a scheme of this nature would not be enough to revive high streets.

Polly Barnfield, chief executive of Maybe, a member of the government’s High Street Taskforce, said that “at the moment, all help should be welcomed and embraced including schemes like Shop Out To Help Out”.

However, she stated that while the scheme could provide the short term financial boost that many retailers and high streets need, “there’s more that needs to be done than just that”.

“To sustain longer term recovery and growth, collaboration between retailers is essential to turn our high streets into destinations with a mix of retail and hospitality that shoppers want to go to for the mix,” she explained.

“It’s about enthusing and engaging consumers across social platforms to drive them towards local physical stores rather than ecommerce stores, creating ‘localism on steroids’ so that shoppers are convinced that your local High Street can provide.”

Dr Eleonora Pantano, retail marketing expert at the University of Bristol, agreed: “The demise of physical stores and the high street started long before the pandemic, which has accelerated the decline.

“To really boost retail sectors, retailers need more substantial financial support to help them adapt from being just a place to shop to offering a memorable experience, which gives them a competitive advantage against online options and the chance of winning customer loyalty.

“When the Shop Out to Help Out money runs out, shoppers won’t return unless there is something special to keep them coming back.”

Last year’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme was hailed a success by the hospitality sector with the majority of businesses reporting that it led to a boost in sales. At the same time, it was met with criticism amid accusations that it helped spur on the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, during a time when the vaccine was not yet widely available.

Despite this, according to Big Hospitality, over 70 per cent of businesses said they’d like to see the scheme repeated again in the future as more than 100 million meals were claimed by diners under the scheme. In addition, booking for the final day, August 31, was up 216 per cent year-on-year.

While this scheme was successful, could this be replicated with one for retailers?

Helen Ashton, chief executive at Shape Beyond, said Eat Out to Help Out was a success as “discounts on food in restaurants are relatively rare and the timing post the first lockdown was great when people were desperate to get out”.

“Discounting of consumer goods is likely to be less impactful as it is a regular occurrence in the retailing seasonal calendar,” she added.

Earlier this week, England ushered in the so-called “freedom day”, which marked the official lifting of Covid restrictions. So would this be the perfect time to launch a Shop Out to Help Out discount scheme?

Rupert Cook, marketing director at marketing agency Gekko, said that the summer holidays were traditionally a relatively quiet period for many retailers, so it may be more effective to give the high street a boost once the autumn term starts as people would be back from their breaks or back to work as the furlough scheme is tapered off.

He added that for those that like to start their Christmas shopping early, Shop Out to Help Out could provide an added incentive.

“What’s probably more pressing for businesses right now is the Covid self isolation rules that are no longer fit for purpose,” he explained.

“The more people are being pinged and told to stay away from work, the harder it is for businesses including retail, to operate.

“Only this week, the managing director of Iceland stated that he is having to close some stores and have restricted opening at others because of staff shortage – something they never had to contend with through the depths of lockdown.

“We should also bear in mind, that with Covid cases rising daily, there is a real possibility that we may be blighted with further lockdowns.”

Retail Business mentor Ami Rabheru agreed.

“The biggest threat I see facing retail businesses going into the golden quarter is the ‘pingdemic’,” she said.

“If staff of small businesses are being asked to isolate by NHS they have to shut down their bricks and mortar shops or reduce hours for that period of time due to staff shortages which will inevitably hurt their recovery for what is the biggest time of the year for most retail businesses.

“So I think that businesses should spend time and effort on building a better customer journey and experiences between the two channels whilst keeping the customer at the heart of their businesses to move forward with the new normal of retail.”

While there have been concerns that a Shop Out to Help Out initiative could cause a surge in positive Covid cases, Cook argued that we are now in a world where a high proportion of the population has been vaccinated.

He stated that unlike the Eat out To Help Out scheme, a retail version wouldn’t be encouraging people to gather together indoors.

“Shopping is a sociable activity but realistically is a more solitary or selective social activity,” he said.

When originally proposed, the Shop Out to Help Out was meant to target smaller and independent retailer rather than the larger chains. Refundable owner Lee Plaister said in a statement that “independent retailers have had a very challenging year and it’s crucial that the government steps up to assist the recovery”.

However, there are concerns that if implemented, Brits would flock to high street staples instead of local, independent stores.

Colin Munro, managing director of fintech firm Miconex, said: “Both small local shops and larger chains have their place on the high street, and the best initiatives are those that encourage all businesses to work together for the benefit of the community, building vibrant, attractive high streets for the future.”

“A customer may visit the high street for the large chain, but they may then also visit the independent book store and coffee shop.

“Customers want choice in how and where they spend, and any Shop Out To Help Out initiative will be more successful if it takes account of this.”

Article published by Retail Gazette

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

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How to benefit from the forthcoming massive wave of ad spend

The recent IPA Bellwether on marketing budgets in the UK has revealed that 2020 saw a fast paced decrease in spend as the effects of the pandemic naturally hit home. Now, as we continue to emerge from the worst of the effects, their forecasts are that there will be a net balance growth of 17.4% which would be the largest increase since 2018.

For the UK, this spend should total up to around £27bn for 2021, with another 7.2% growth predicted for 2022, so how will this be spent? It is clear that the main increases are predicted for Main Media Advertising (10.1%), Public Relations (7.4%), and Direct Marketing (6.8%). The cuts here are reserved for Events (-28.4%) which are still particularly struggling from Covid restrictions, but also Other Marketing (-5.4%) and Market Research (-4.95%).

For many, Main Media Advertising is a must for spend given the reach and benefits it can bring. However some of the other categories are, I believe, up for debate and it would be a mistake to purely dictate spending purely based on variable forecasts without acknowledging what exactly your priorities are and how best to connect with your consumer in order to garner their loyalty.

A new determined consumer mindset

We are gradually coming out of lockdown and consumers continue to be excited about it, indeed 88% of consumers from our latest retail survey results claimed that they have already taken advantage of physical shops being open to make purchases. They are emerging with a determined mind-set, using their new found online skills to narrow down their options before heading to the store to browse and make the final purchase. Now is the ideal time to have boots on the ground in retail areas rather than just generic PR pushes, helping them through their customer journey and promoting your brand to them.

The brand awareness required to engage this consumer can’t come out of Media Advertising or PR spend alone, other channels need to be utilised to ensure you are standing out in a sea of competition. Social media reach can help to a certain extent, however no amount of impressions will replicate getting face to face time with a shopper at the point of purchase. Importantly too, the data that comes from the physical interactions a person is able to provide can prove vital and brings incredibly valuable impact and insights in a short amount of time.

Footfall soars ahead of high-spirited summer

The retail environment is changing and has been particularly fluid over the past year, this data is critical to understanding the new trends that have emerged and forming (or re-forming) brand strategies. Insight from Kantar, online shopping fell in April for what was the second time in a row, and Springboard footfall data showed an increase of 88% week on week for the period that non-essential retail reopened after the 12th. All of this points to the fact that there are more shoppers out there than have been for 14 months, there is a chance here to connect with them while confidence is high and a (hopefully) high-spirited summer begins.

Online share of retail sales is decreasing, although the benchmark remains above the pre-pandemic figure, settling at about 36% in April vs 23% in 2020. This of course indicates the acceleration of a trend that has been growing for a while, but it does mostly remain product specific, and nothing will ever really replace the experiences that in store shopping can offer. The store now is becoming more of an experience hub as well as a purchase point. In-store marketing continues to have the power to not only increase actual sales, but also other key factors such as brand loyalty and even helping to drive social media interactions.

Staying ahead of the competition

When it comes to consumer electronics and large appliances in particular, many consumers will always prefer to touch a product and hear about its benefits first-hand rather than reading a specification sheet online. Hearing their input, from questions to reasons for purchase, can then be fed back directly to a brand, enabling them to react and stay ahead of the competition.

In this new age of retail, the smartest businesses will be the ones that can leverage ad spend across the board in order to reach consumers at every level relevant to them. Effective field marketing can step in to help exceed expectations.

To read the full article by Tom Harwood – Data and Insight Manager Gekko Group, please visit Retail Sector.

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Back to the future: Retailers need a new approach for winning customers

The easing of lockdown measures, although slow and steady, has come as a welcome relief for retailers. We can now work towards rebuilding through the eventual easing of all restrictions.

While the lockdowns have been long and painful, the appetite to return and shop in-store remains strong. But it would be naive to just act as though it was still 2020 in reopening and returning to the same plan. It is incumbent on retailers to recognise how consumers have changed their shopping behaviours.

Successful retailers have always understood the motivators and triggers for different customer groups and then offering an appropriate, tailored approach. This needs to be recognised and acted upon.

We recently took the temperature of the nation with a survey of changed shopping behaviours – with some interesting and encouraging results. The vast majority polled (70 per cent) revealed they were planning on visiting stores as much, or more than pre-pandemic. Only two per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t return to the high street. But digging into the detail we can start to see some distinct trends within this.

Localism remains strong

A new appreciation of localism has been one big factor that has brought our communities closer and changed perceptions that local perhaps meant less choice, as 35 per cent of respondents said they have purchased from a local or independent store that they would not have done pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, the expectation might have been the very oldest might be the most loyal to the high street; interestingly, 35-44 year olds in our survey were the most loyal.

With the different factors motivating consumers to return to shops, 27 per cent of over-55s said the enjoyment of shopping was the thing they were looking forward to most. But this compared with only 15 per cent of under-55s. 81 per cent of respondents cited convenience as a key factor; this trend was most prominent in 18-24 year olds.

There is potential for physical retailers to target younger consumers with a focus on the unparalleled customer experience in-person shopping can achieve.

Flaws in online

Despite the huge choice online, the idea that consumer behaviour has been entirely different digitally was somewhat dispelled by the research. 49 per cent of respondents said they mainly shopped from the same stores online that they always used to visit offline.

But our research also really highlights the flaws in the online experience. A massive 58 per cent cited issues with ordering as a key disadvantage to online shopping. Interestingly, issues with orders was selected most prominently in people aged 34 and under.

Those most concerned by returns were 55-64 year olds in comparison with 18-24s who were least concerned. This highlights the different ways people have been brought up shopping. Given environmental issues are a concern to younger shoppers, we should perhaps emphasise more the fact physical retail can reduce a consumer’s carbon footprint.

A hybrid approach

Rather than just focusing on one channel now at the expense of another, if the pandemic has taught us anything it is the strength of having a hybrid omni-channel offering – being agile and flexible to respond to changing customer requirements.

Certainly consumers seem adept at mixing and matching their in-person and online shopping. For example, 38 per cent would use new online skills to research an item online and then buy it in-store, and over-65s are the most likely to do this (54 per cent).

This underscores the need for a joined up brand and retail experience. This is particularly the case with the considered purchase sector; as we came out of previous lockdowns, consumers have shown a willingness to ‘shop with purpose’ in- store for items they have researched online.

As we return to something akin to normality, it is clear just rolling out a 2019/2020 strategy won’t cut it. The desire for physical retail is there, but we need to understand people’s changed realities.

Retail is one of the most dynamic industries, and changing to meet the needs of consumers has been the hallmark of great retailers in the past and will be tomorrow. Let’s get back to the future.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

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New Gekko survey finds the majority of shoppers have returned to stores

With retail lockdowns across the UK now easing, our research has found that 88% of shoppers have returned to physical stores in the first two weeks and felt good about it!

At Gekko we are always looking to better understand the customer journey at all stages of the shopping cycles in all categories. We do this to gain a wider understanding of the retail environment, allowing us to better train our staff and serve our clients.

Back in February, while non-essential retail was still subjected to lockdown restrictions, we surveyed consumers to gauge their shopping intentions once lockdown ended. Our Great British Retail Take Off survey revealed that there was a huge pent up demand to return to the high street with 70% of people planning on visiting stores as much, or more than pre-pandemic and with key motivators being the ability to physically interact with products and have an enjoyable experience.

With the majority of retail restriction now lifted, Gekko wanted to revisit the subject and gain an insight into whether the public have returned to stores in the levels that said they would in the previous survey. Further from this, we wanted to see how the public felt about the way stores are trying to keep them safe. The survey, which was conducted between 26th-30th April, two weeks following the reopening of non-essential retail, provides an insight into the positive sentiments of UK shoppers have regarding stores reopening.

Indications are that physical retail is back, and shoppers are excited to return. Through the responses from this survey, and the comparison between these results and our previous Great British Retail Take-Off survey, we are able to see several noticeable trends.

In a win for bricks and mortar shops, people have visited stores more in the two weeks since restrictions were eased than they did pre-pandemic (previously predicted at 12%, now at 18%). This is backed up by the fact that 87% of people returned to physical stores at least once in the 2 weeks after lockdowns were eased, compared with only 70% who said they were looking forward to returning to store in our previous results.

The overwhelming majority (80%) of people who had returned to store felt that stores were doing enough to make them feel safe. Retail has continued to adapt at every stage of the pandemic, and the fact that so many are willing and able to get back out and shop safely is testament to that.

About the research -The online consumer survey was conducted by Gekko between 26th – 30th April 2021.

To find out more about this survey please visit our website or to obtain a full copy of the report, please contact us at info@gekko-uk.com

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Future Proof: What’s next for retail?

Future Proof Podcast: the marketing podcast from Kantar and Saïd Business School, Oxford University

In this episode, Daniel Todaro, founder and managing director of Gekko Group, the retail marketing agency specialising in consumer electronics speaks to Jane Ostler from Kantar.

Dan talks about how brands and retailers can improve the experience for customers in an evolving marketplace, noting that while omnichannel and online shopping has increased in importance, shoppers are still very keen to touch, try and experience a product – so high street retailers have plenty to think about when it comes to satisfying pent-up demand. He also discusses the increased use of electronics at home, how Gekko has delivered training during the pandemic, and the way sustainability and localism will affect retail strategies.

Please click here to listen to the podcast

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The Great British retail take off: 70% of consumers plan significant return to High Street

There is a huge desire to get back to the High Street, according to a new survey by Gekko on consumer shopping intentions when lockdown ends. 70% of people are planning on visiting stores as much, or more than pre-pandemic when they reopen in April with only 2% of respondents saying they wouldn’t return to the High Street. However nearly half of shoppers want reduced store capacity to continue due to coronavirus still being in circulation.

Pent up demand
The research identifies a huge desire and pent up demand to return to the High Street with key motivators being the ability to physically interact with products and have an enjoyable experience. When asked what makes people want to return to the High Street, 62% said it was the ability to see, hold and try a product, 53% support the High Street, while 52% miss the ability to browse. The same number, 52% reported the sheer enjoyment of shopping as a key factor in returning. In terms of shops they were looking forward to visiting, nearly three quarters (73%) of people were looking forward to returning to a clothes stores, 38% to garden/DIY stores and 23% to technology stores. Men are 3 times more excited about visiting tech stores compared to women. Meanwhile 24% of consumers are planning a shopping splurge when lockdown eases with 18-24 year olds the most likely to splash out (40%).

Covid safety measures
With Covid nerves still very much apparent, 86% of respondents don’t want shopping to return to exactly the way it was pre-pandemic. Nearly half of respondents (49%) want reduced store capacity to continue, which will be at odds with retailers’ desire to attract the masses back in-store. 61% want to keep hand sanitizer points and nearly a third (31%) want more click and collect. However only 11% said they wanted limited contact with goods to stay, reinforcing the fact that people like to ‘try before you buy’. For the 30% of Brits planning to visit stores less, COVID safety concerns were the most cited reason.

Changed shopping habits
While online has benefited greatly from the pandemic, the research also identified that supporting local businesses is high on consumers’ priorities. Over a third (35%) of respondents revealed they have purchased from a local or independent store that they would not have done pre-pandemic. Over half (52%) of men and 49% of women have been more loyal to their local high street stores. Younger people are independent stores’ most supportive group online, with 47% of 18-24 year olds responding saying that they shopped with them. Interestingly 38% would use new online skills to research an item online and then buy it instore supporting people’s wishes to get back to the High Street.

According to Daniel Todaro, Managing Director of Gekko: “With light now appearing at the end of the tunnel, it is even more important to understand how consumer behaviour may have changed, what people are now used too, and what they are excited about when it comes to returning to physical retail. Encouragingly, our research shows despite some less than favourable predictions, the demand for physical retail remains strong. The research shows that absence makes the heart grow fonder with consumers missing the ability to see, hold and try products and the sheer enjoyment that sensory pleasure brings, with online unable to replace this experience. However consumers remain cautious at this stage with a preference for measures to be in place. As the vaccine rollout continues and lockdown eases, retailers will hope these concerns will fade away.”

About the research -The online survey of 541 consumers was carried out by Gekko in February.

To find out more about our survey research please visit our website.

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Retail and Ecommerce in 2021 Questionnaire

Click here to participate in the questionnaire

Here at Gekko we are always looking to better understand the customer journey at all stages of the shopping cycles in all categories. Whilst non-essential retail remains closed and we have, as a nation, been forced to change our shopping habits, we would like to ask your opinion on how you have shopped during the era of the pandemic.

You might have shopped more, shopped less, made the shift online, or are holding out for the stores to reopen. Please put yourself in the position of you as the shopper and your personal experiences to let us know more by answering the following questions.

All responses will be anonymous, and the survey should only take about 5 minutes of your time. The findings will then be aggregated to better understand how shopping behaviours have been influenced over the past year and possibly into the future.

The survey will run up to the 21st February, and we will collate the results shortly afterwards.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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Five positive signposts on the road to retail recovery in 2021

The data presented in nightly news broadcasts is a strange hybrid of bad news and good news. Of course, we have the all too familiar grim updates on hospitalisations and deaths as a result of covid. But we also now have a counter-narrative – the numbers of people vaccinated who can look forward to a fear-free life again. We may be in the midst of a lockdown, but hope is not only on the horizon but in front of our eyes and shortly to be in our arms. The best of times and the worst of times.

Retailers are also facing a mixture of challenging and hopeful data. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) recently revealed sales growth overall falling by 0.3% in a year dominated by the Covid-19 impact – the worst annual change since the BRC began collating figures in 1995. Yet this is hardly surprising, with the Government forcing retailers to close. Unlike in the midst of other recessions, we can be confident an unprecedented bounce back is looming. A recent KPMG/Ipsos study points to a sales growth of up to 3% for 2021, despite the huge challenges in the first two quarters. Indeed there are several signals that point to a swift route to recovery in 2021.

Weathered and tested

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. Throughout the pandemic, retail has been written off only to bounce back whenever it has been allowed to trade. This is evidenced by the figures for lockdown two. According to the ONS, the headline figure for retail sales volumes in November during the second lockdown were 3.8% lower than in October, ending six months of growth. However, the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and, remarkably, sales remained 2.6% above February’s level in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month.

Throughout the past 12 months, retailers have had to adapt their trading at short notice, whether closing altogether or introducing a variety of safety measures and still enticing customers to spend. They have also needed to embrace new ways of trading, from click and collect to virtual shop floors to having sales experts in call centres rather than in person. This experience and ability to weather these storms and still attract customers mean retailers will be in much better shape when the good times return.

A shot in the arm for consumer confidence

Retail has always needed and relied on a confident consumer to sustain itself. You feel hopeful about the future and you are more likely to splash out. Over the past few months, we have had a perfect storm of negativity. Daily charts showing exponential infection and death rates highlighting the problem now, with no end in sight creating a feeling of hopelessness. This has created a mental health crisis to add to the immediate public health crisis. However, just as the confidence has been sapped by one thing – the coronavirus, so the cure can be the vaccine – a literal shot in the arm for consumer confidence. Of course, millions have been negatively financially impacted by the crisis, but due to the furlough scheme, many have been protected in a way that hasn’t happened in previous recessions.

Indeed this was the analysis by a KPMG/Ipsos retail think tank, which said retail should be able to look to a brighter second half of 2021. Pent-up savings, demand, a more confident consumer and a successful vaccine roll out all point to a strong rebound. However, it also points to some consumer behaviours changing during the pandemic, with performance varying across different categories.

Retailers have embraced an omnichannel strategy

The pandemic has speeded up the adoption of an omnichannel strategy for many retailers that was probably overdue. Dunelm is a good case in point. Despite huge challenges in its retail estate, the company’s investment in the online channel has paid dividends. Despite all of Dunelm’s 174 stores in Britain being closed to customers, the company expects pre-tax profit for the first half of its financial year to be about £122m, up 33.9% on the previous year. This is due to the investment in online and the trend for home furnishing during the pandemic. Similarly, Dixons Carphone Warehouse announced pre-tax profits of £45m for the six months to 31 October with online sales up 145%. Those brands that have a strong online presence have been able to trade successfully and will benefit even further when their physical stores re-open. Particularly given the next key signal.

Pent-up demand for physical retail experience

Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown, there has been huge pent-up demand in evidence whenever shops have been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off-putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. While we are in the midst of a third lockdown, we know from the end of the second one that footfall increased by nearly 20% as determined consumers returned to stores. With increasing numbers being vaccinated, we can expect an even stronger rebound this time. I am really confident we will see an unprecedented retail re-emergence when the impact of max vaccination is felt. Even retailers like Primark, which recently revealed a £300m hit to profits, remain bullish. As Jason Bason, finance chief of its parent company Associated Foods, pointed out, when its shops had been open sales were only down 14% despite the restrictions. After all, if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers. People miss the retail experience.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’

One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make fewer journeys out, but when they do, not returning empty-handed. Our own analysis for the last trading period, December showed really healthy growth in conversion rates of 51%. This was due to pent-up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. Again, the result of lockdown is to make the return to retail all the more profitable – something that can give retailers something to look forward to as we focus on getting through this difficult time. This particularly applies to categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. The pandemic has underscored we may be less willing to venture out, but when we do we want to make it count.

While we are in the middle of a really difficult period it may be difficult to keep optimistic, but as we approach the end game of this crisis we can be sure that the public will want to celebrate their new-found freedoms. Retailers that have adopted the right strategies can benefit when good times return.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

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Luxury Retailing in Times of Crisis — Regaining the Crown

Gekko Retail Marketing Females Tablet

The luxury landscape is changing and world-renowned brands are feeling the impact from consumers’ changing behaviour, a post lockdown drop in revenues, and higher costs of raw materials. Gekko MD Daniel Todaro dives deeper into the topic.

I read with interest about how Luxury Fashion Boutiques opened in Paris, one of the first capitals to do so. This created much excitement amongst those fashion-starved aficionados and trend-setters.

I’ve said it before: Retail is possibly one of the most dynamic industries globally and luxury brands lead in this area of expertise in many ways, like no other. Retail, in particular luxury retail, has had to continuously adapt to changing consumer behaviours over the decades, as well as the trends that drive the desire to shop. Offering choice that appeals to every distinct generation and their character traits is essential to maintain desire.

At the high end, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Hermes are offering customers private shopping sessions; no doubt, these will be to their loyal customer base. Done creatively and properly, these sessions will also offer deviation from the so-called ‘new normal’ to create another level of exclusivity and brand attachment.
For others, though, with the need to quarantine for 48 to 72 hours garments that have been handled, let alone worn, as well as disinfecting changing rooms after every use, it becomes challenging to maintain that allure of a luxury brand.

This challenge is perhaps demonstrated by the lack of customers just one week after re-opening, queuing to cross the threshold of ‘fashion heaven’. In the first week, the initial rush drew masses that complied with the carefully orchestrated queues. These excitable brand devotees could not wait to indulge themselves on May 11th, with crowds flocking to the boutiques, but were queue-free just one week on. With no tourists in the city and the initial rush satisfied for those desperate, the demand has dropped.

So, the challenge for luxury brands is how do you make it matter for consumers? Why am I queuing and what do I need the items for when there is nowhere to go, no bars, clubs, or parties to attend. With restaurants not open for that special occasion or to meet friends and live events, awards, launches or red-velvet rope to get waved through, why bother shopping? No one will see that new watch, bag, dress, or killer heels, so now the thought of spending your money deviates to other activities and worse, alternative brands and products.

Shopping per se and, in particular within the luxury sector, will not disappear — well, not just yet. But how a brand targets an audience to shop differently, with purpose, may diminish if not handled innovatively. Therefore, learning from this rather frustrating lockdown is an opportunity to move away from the conventional norm and spearhead change that delivers the purpose many expect.

With a forecasted 30% decline in the personal luxury goods category this financial year and whose reliance on China accounts for 35% of the luxury goods market, it’s becoming more challenging for brands to appeal to their once established audience and broaden their reach and appeal beyond just being luxury.

Examples of those feeling the impact of the changing luxury landscape are, surprisingly, the masters of luxury. Kering, the owner of brands like Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Balenciaga, reported a 15.4% drop in revenue in Q1. Likewise, LVMH, owner of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Fenty, and Givenchy, reported a 15% drop in revenue for the same period.

Luxury brands, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton, have increased prices for some of their most coveted products as they seek to make up for lost sales during weeks of lockdown. Chanel said, in late May, that it was increasing prices for its iconic handbags and some small leather goods by between 5% and 17% around the world, as the pandemic had pushed up the cost of certain raw materials.

Jewelers are not immune, either. Exports are down 21.9% for Swiss watches, with the closure of watch factories and their global retail network hitting their sales hard, even more so as this sector deliberately avoids online with only 5% of new watch sales transacted online. The result is that the total volume has decreased by 43.1%.

Therefore, the need for immediate change is at the top of the to-do list for every brand, whether it be luxury, exclusive, or desired.

The Perspex screens, social-distancing floor stickers, masked sales associates, and complete avoidance techniques employed to stop shoppers touching items, won’t be acceptable to many. More so, this increases the impact on brands whose equity diminishes as precautionary measures blur the lines between exclusivity and normality.

What retail and the luxury sector are experts at achieving is evolution. The innovation in customer experience we see on the high street more often than not started life in the luxury sector: Burberry, with its iPad-clutching sales associates several years back is a prime example, now common across the channel. Therefore, while brands and retailers start implementing reopening plans, it’s an opportunity to think about how the next generation of retailing begins, and many will be looking to learn from luxury brands.

Change requires a flair for dynamism to aid survival and create those meaningful connections through an omnichannel, eco-friendly, societal, and technology-driven approach. Enhancing the customer journey post-crisis to continue the brand experience for all consumers, more so for those who chose to shop with you, is essential in creating long-lasting emotional brand engagements that convert naturally, without pretension, into valuable sales.

Article originally published on Branding.com

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Retail’s post-COVID-19 silver lining

Gekko Retail Marketing Tech Wearable

While retailers start developing their reopening plans, Gekko’s Managing Director Daniel Todaro looks at the opportunities for the next generation of our high streets…

The story has been consistently bleak across the board since we locked down back in March and for non-essential retail, the doors were firmly shut with zero footfall. However, consumer support for local independent businesses has increased and those retailers who adapted are learning that a good strategy will make them better placed to trade post-COVID-19.

There has been a 36% overall decline in-store sales of non-food items in the last 3 months to April and I wouldn’t be surprised if you suggested that retail is a busted flush. Yes, the challenge is vast and it will be difficult but we do know that shoppers still crave the High Street and 55% of UK consumers want to support local retail businesses as a result of lockdown.

Online sales have increased by a not very surprising 19% taking the digital share of all retail sales to a new high of 23.8%. If I’m honest, it probably won’t reduce significantly after lockdown which does mean that traditional retailers will need to work harder to ease the trend.

Retailers must think digitally to survive, taking an omnichannel approach, whilst still maintaining a sustainable and collaborative approach. This has never been more relevant than now.

I’ve said it before, retail is possibly one of the most dynamic industries globally and the UK leads in this area of expertise in many ways. The High Street has over the decades had to continuously adapt to changing consumer behaviours as well as the trends that drive the desire to shop by offering choices that appeal to every distinct generation and their character traits.

Learning from this rather frustrating lockdown is an opportunity to move away from the chatter about the ‘failing’ High Street and spearhead change with purpose. Change that requires a flair for dynamism to aid survival and create those meaningful connections through an omnichannel, eco-friendly, societal and technology-driven approach. Enhancing the customer journey and brand experience for all consumers who chose to shop with you is essential in creating long-lasting emotional engagements that convert into sales.

What the High Street is good at is evolving. So while we all start developing our reopening plans and await a date for retail to open its doors once again, the opportunity to think about the next generation of our High Streets begins.

We, like many retailers, adapted as soon as the lockdown was official on the 23rd and having anticipated its coming several weeks before, we started to innovate the manner we marketed high-value technology products to consumers. In doing so we met the brands’ and the retailers’ needs, whilst not forgetting the importance of a personal touch for consumers.

It is true that beyond the brand awareness created through advertising, consumers do like to go into a store to experience the products they are considering buying. The ability to make informed decisions is achieved by being given a demonstration by people who are knowledgeable. That’s why shops like multiple retailer Currys and the hundreds of independent stores exist, providing a service you just can’t get online. The very essence of this service, potentially under threat post-COVID-19 through social distancing means operating whilst keeping people at a 2m distance, eroding the consumers desired experience. Whilst retailers are considering how they can safely and effectively open their doors, the consideration of how to maintain a semblance of customer experience for both retail and brands is also important.

As a retail and field marketing agency, one of our core services is to provide in-store promoters who work on behalf of brands to create a curated customer journey. This extends to creating strategies that build relationships with Retail Sales Advisors (RSAs) to provide them with valuable training techniques to build knowledge and sales tips.

In normal times, we would do this in person but very rapidly we adapted to achieve this through providing online training to RSAs. This is something that we will continue doing while innovating with retailers to create and deliver solutions that look to develop the channel, whilst meeting the required statutory guidelines.

Never has something come along like this pandemic that has affected so many aspects of what we and brands do in traditional retail, however, I remain immensely positive. The challenge ahead means never being scared of change again and evolving. The dramatic 17% fall in sales across non-food retailers, forecasted to translate as £37bn in lost revenue can be reversed, maybe not all but definitely in part.

We’ve seen during lockdown consumers attempting to emulate the high street cafe experience by stocking up on coffee makers and it appears that many are also taking the opportunity to upgrade kitchens in the absence of being able to dine out and this trend is expected to continue. In addition, with more people being encouraged to continue working from home, some may ditch their shared workspace desk and will want to upgrade IT equipment to make those VC’s come to life or at least run better. This ‘upgrade’ opportunity should naturally extend from these across all other categories, making the home the ideal and safest place to go to work and have fun, which will need new or upgraded gadgets to make it so.

So the change begins and while making sure we look after our employees, keeping the retailers happy as well as keeping their customers and staff safe, we have to keep performing the very service that’s required from us as effectively as possible to drive knowledge, advocacy and sales.

The back to work planning process is an extremely layered and complex situation to navigate with a multitude of stakeholders involved and a communal agreement needed. This ranges from queuing, managing social distancing, all the rules we are used to and are working very well for food retailers but how do we make it translate to retailers selling considered purchases. Specialist technology and consumer electronic retailers are built on interaction which in some cases is essential to achieve a sale.

This extends to how we also engage with retailers and RSAs to sell or train a range of consumer electronics that must be understood. We must consider how we merchandise fixtures that must be cleaned after every touch as do the demo products used to facilitate a sale. Solutions we innovate with must ensure we maintain the delivery of an experience that converts the shopper into a customer of a brand and more importantly that buys there and then.

Encouraging the use of e-learning within channels by all RSA will enable them to develop their knowledge by learning about products and their usage. In addition, we can develop the experience by coaching them to understand that every selling situation differs and therefore the approach must also.

The challenge is creating and planning to devise a whole new way of training staff to sell in a manner which makes the consumer feel comfortable, also safe whilst not diminishing the brand experience. Proactively working with brand partners to innovate and help bring retail staff and consumers along on the journey, maybe the key to success post-COVID-19.

Whilst the need to equip teams with masks, gloves, sanitiser and stores with demarcation signage etc. is a necessary evil, in turn diminishing your ambience, the true challenge we must rise to defeat, is converting those negative forces to see the potential. It can be done and retailers have a unique opportunity to create and implement exciting new, fully-fledged plans that are actionable and not theoretical. Plans that innovate to work for your business, which are continually fit for purpose and future proof.

Yes, we must definitely follow the guidelines, we must also in the most effective manner possible, communicate our plans with staff and retrain to merchandise and sell with a new approach. We mustn’t be afraid, we must be brave, we must seek the silver lining to create new rules and ways of trading that work specifically for retail. Changes that innovate to resonate confidently with customers.

Article published at PCR Online

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