Tag Archives: high street

Luxury Retailing in Times of Crisis — Regaining the Crown

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

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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Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of Covid-19

PCRMAY2020

Gekko Field Marketing’s MD, Daniel Todaro, discusses whether the Coronavirus will present the opportunity to re-appraise the retail experience and increase communities’ appreciation of the high street

So here we are amidst the most bizarre of situations that no one in their lifetime has experienced. There’s never been a global pandemic or an instance that has distanced human beings to this extent. I’m optimistic and believe that we will come out of this experience as better business people with a new perspective to how we go about running our companies.

The pandemic has seen all but essential retail close with figures published by Google showing an 85% drop in footfall to retail destinations over the first two weeks of the pandemic, marginally improving by 3% to 82% in week three.

It’s true to say that some businesses may regrettably not survive the economic impact of the situation, which is indeed unprecedented, but for some it could have been avoidable if those who hold the power acted more responsibly. Talking Retail published some embarrassing statistics surrounding the government’s Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which saw only 1.4% of applicants successfully receiving loans. Putting this into perspective, of the estimated 300,000+ firms that applied, only 4,200 businesses have received rescue loans from banks. That was three weeks after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the scheme alongside the Employee Retention Scheme, more commonly known by employees as the Furlough Scheme. This in itself provided some false hope for employers and employees. As to this day, it is still not fully understood by all because the Government is yet to publish full qualifying criteria or the portal for companies to apply.

Now, if you’re one of those businesses that has generated virtually no revenue and is still covering your overheads with what cash flow you have remaining, I suspect a loan would be useful to ensure that you could at least pay your staff the 80% the government has promised to cover. What most don’t understand is that you still require the cash flow to cover your payroll, even at 80%, whilst you wait for the funds in the form of the grant from the Government.

Whilst I do not wish to criticise the Government’s approach, as these initiatives are brilliant and what you’d expect from the world sixth largest economy to protect its GDP and lessen the impact on the welfare state, they are however reactionary. The speed of announcements for these knee jerk initiatives has unfortunately meant that the communication to all was poor. Compounded by misunderstandings as lawyers, accountants and advisors speculated on what the government would do forgetting to explain to small business that none of this advice being offered was not actually based on fact.

As a small business you rely on many outlets to advise you accordingly and help guide a business in its decision making. My fear is that all this unqualified advice is making matters worse and creating more issues for when we are ready to get back to business as normal, as there remains many unknowns that impact future planning.

It’s been reported that in March, retail declined 4.3% and non- food purchases online accounted for 40% of all online sales. As a marketing agency that specialises in technology and leisure brands, this statistic is of particular interest to me. So what can marketers, sales people and retail do to ensure technology and CE retail are able to come back with a bang?

Our fundamental societal roles have changed – working, shopping, education etc. – as well as our attitudes to the community roles we all took for granted. Those truly crucial to society – our NHS, bin men, local butchers, bakers, milk deliveries etc. have been elevated to heroes and saviours, doing all they can to serve their local communities.

So, the question we’re all pondering is will it lead to a reappraisal of the role of independent retailers in the community? Will consumers look differently upon what they may have previously considered out of date. We are all shopping local, where stores are open, from the independent hardware store to the corner shop and long term, I know my shopping habits will now incorporate these stores often and not in an ‘emergency’.

And what’s come to the fore more than anything is that local shops are more than just places to buy products.

So with a new captive audience and acceptance of service to society, how can independent retailers revive their fortunes by socialising their new audience and retain them through experiences? We all understand the power of retail experiences, but we now need to plan ahead and look at this with a post- COVID-19 social lens. Because let’s face it, the first thing people will want to do after lock down is go to pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, shops and thoroughly enjoy themselves with those they’ve missed, and experience the feeling they’ve been deprived of for some time. This includes the experience of physical retail and reliving the enthusiasm of consumerism as a pastime, rather than having another brown box left outside your door.

Therefore, whilst still in lockdown, plan how you’re going to come out fighting. Use the time to think about what you could do certain things differently to enhance the experience – smaller range, bigger ranging, specialisation, marketing, PR, advertising, training, services.

Engage with your brand partners and encourage them to support you with offers, training and local marketing budgets. And then add to this how to socialise it – free coffee, fitting service, desk space to speak to someone face-to-face, new displays, improved window dressing, giving back to the community, offering key worker discounts?

Shopping habits of the great British nation are undoubtedly going to change after a period of social distancing. Retail will need to adjust to the commercial realities of the COVID-19 crisis and the long term effects it will inevitably create. But when this is all over, if marketed right, it could create opportunities to entice shoppers back through the doors with reopening parties and offers to kick start buying again and encouraging the nation to treat itself.

The treat aspect is essential to bring back the joy of shopping and in doing so creating an opportunity for brands and retailers to make shopping fun and personal again.

Read PCR Magazine here

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Tapping into the booming esports market

PCR BLOG

In July 2019, spanning three days, the largest gathering of gamers from around the world – 40 million – took part in the Fortnite World Cup tournament. Hailed as a monumental moment for esports, the winner, a 16-year-old, took home £2.42 million. The prize sum overshadowed the £1.6 million Shane Lowry won at this year’s Golf Open Championship in Portrush. The esports industry is becoming increasingly popular, rivalling many traditional sporting events with the Fortnite tournament watched by 23,000 people in a sold out New York stadium and millions more through live streams.

This highlights how the gaming industry and its place in culture has evolved, with gamers stepping away from their own consoles to watch others play their favourite games. And not surprisingly, this is reflected in the size of the gaming market which continues to grow rapidly. According to Newzoo, there are reportedly 2.3 billion active gamers globally and 46% of those (1.1 billion) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. More so with the forecasted growth of gaming from $137.9 billion in 2018 to more than $180.1 billion by 2021. Looking just at the UK, the gaming market is now worth a record £5.7 billion thanks in part to the strong foundations in place for innovative games and entrepreneurial developers.

The next 12-18 months looks set to be a very interesting for the sector with some of the big names in gaming hardware expected to reveal their next generation platforms. Expectation is that Sony, who have sold 525 million consoles since launching PlayStation in 1994, will start to ship their latest console in the second half of 2020. And of course both Nintendo and Microsoft will be in the mix too. Microsoft officially announced its next generation hardware, codenamed Project Scarlett, during its E3 2019 conference and it’s due for release in time for “Holiday 2020”.

Before that is the exciting debut of Stadia in Q4 this year which may be a potential fly in the ointment for the established gaming brands. Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer, and a move that will have Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony quite concerned. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality.

As Phil Harrison VP and general manager at Google stated when launching Stadia: “It’s a new generation platform, rather than a next generation platform”. In evolving the concept of platforms, rather than recreating them, Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63 million daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future.

The excellent features are great news to those who have grown up used to on-demand web-based entertainment, app-based games and instant updates to technology, but for generations who are familiar with buying physical consoles and games, this could be a transition they may not make because nostalgia can come into play. Owning a console and saving up to buy the latest must have game and completing it before trading it in to buy the next release, has been a pleasure to many.

The generational changes in consumers has seen Millennials identify with nostalgia and they recapture their youth through console gaming just as they have been doing for over 20 years. There is a shared enjoyment amongst social groups in getting together and playing a multiplayer game on Mario Kart on the original Wii. It’s also interesting to see how the retro gaming sector tapping into this and making headlines. Available to buy this Christmas will be a reimagined full-sized reissue of the Commodore 64.

Giving this generation a chance to either buy or play the consoles and games of their youth could open up a new opportunity for gaming retailers, because a streaming service is not great news for those retailing the hardware to eager gamers needing to upgrade to access the dream being sold by the platforms. Indeed, GAME has been battling tough high street conditions and has seen in the past three months a successful take over by Sports Direct. The British sports gear retailer said it did not believe that, as a standalone business, GAME was “able to weather the pressures that it is facing”.

Furthermore, the introduction of streaming could see the resale market suffer too, again a blow to high street stores such as GAME and CEX.

This is an evolving and exciting market with opportunities and pitfalls for the whole supply chain. I started this piece discussing the phenomenon that was the Fortnite World Cup and for retailers, this presents a huge opportunity to tap into this ‘experience’ economy and revive their fortunes by using empty high street spaces to create purpose-built gaming arenas for live gaming where the community can come together. But there’s no doubt that we’re going to see a ferocious battle between Stadia and the console manufacturers – so let the games begin.

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Disruption will lead to innovation in our high streets

The Drum Blog

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced in May 2019 that a new £62 million fund will breathe new life into historic high streets across the country. Really? What’s £62m going to do? Unless there’s a momentous shift by Government regarding the business rate issue no £62m fund is going to fix anything or impact the dire straits we find our high streets in.

But here’s the conundrum. Across the country, people still enjoy going shopping. Shops are not going to disappear and 89 percent of UK sales are still generated through physical retail.

Consumers want high streets and businesses want to be there. We can’t give up on our high streets, but we need to fundamentally disrupt the existing model with ideas that address business rate costs head on.

Reigniting imagination on the high street

We need traditional brick and mortar retailers to be imaginative and visionary to make retail work for them and their customers. We haven’t seen enough of this. There’s been some successes where traditional retail chains have introduced successful in-store experiences, from 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.

Brand collaborations appear to work well, and this is where I think independent retailers need to deploy more disruptive strategies. Surely independents 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, cook shops and delis collaborating and complimenting one another and butcher’s, bakeries, greengrocers and florists joining up.

With so many consumers now on a personal quest to do what’s good for the planet, collaborations can really work to bring purpose to the fore and give consumers more choice.

The rise of the ethical high street

For people who are ethically minded, they may prefer to visit collaborations that have similarly aligned values for example, butchers, delis and bakeries that are fully ethically sourced or organic or shoe and clothes shops that won’t use unethical material. Delivering a positive, convenient and alternative shopping experience for people for whom these things are a driving factor in their purchasing decisions will provide an incredible customer service and experience that’s missing right now.

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 it needs to do something before it loses its confidence and high streets forever. I believe it requires a major re-think of the whole supply chain from landlords to legal and introducing new innovations like retail matching services. A service that pairs up independent retailers who are looking for high street shop spaces in particular areas.

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 not more of the same.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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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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Retail Renaissance

ipm blogs

The high street is dying, that’s what we keep hearing from all angles of the media but is it?

No, its evolving to meet the needs of generational shifts in shopping habits which retailers must adapt to in order to give consumers a desirable experience. Those that respond positively to shoppers and adapt, appreciate the increased value this change offers for potential survival. Retail is no longer there to serve the customer, it’s the customer who decides if retailers remain relevant to the high street.

Those retailers that refuse to listen are deserving of their fate. It’s not a surprise or the fault of external factors when a major retailer, who failed to adapt, calls in the administrators. Social and economic factors are not going to ‘improve’ as they are proving to be the norm, it’s just how life is now, therefore boards of major retailers need to stop procrastinating and adapt fast. With 89% of UK sales still generated through physical retail, the desire to shop on the High Street is still prevalent, retailers need to adapt creatively to capture a slice of those sales.

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, Z or Alpha are not ignorant to poor retail. This 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.

From traditional retail chains to independents and pop up stores, the ones that ‘get it’ are doing so to great effect. Whether it be through introducing speaker spaces within the store, to conducting free classes or work zones to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere. By also introducing other brands to coexist alongside your brand, is winning hearts and minds. Retail is changing. Changing positively but perhaps not fast enough to decrease the failures of trusted retail brands and reduce the vacant units on our high streets.

Debenhams tried this by introducing Patisserie Valerie cafes within their stores which proved fatal for both brands, partly due to their incompetence to manage their finances or understand the consumer. You don’t ‘accidentally’ misplace £40m neither do you introduce a traditional patisserie into an already stale retail format such as Debenhams, in an attempt to entice new and younger shoppers. The opportunity to revive its fortunes could be taken from its past when it introduced designer names to its stable with huge success. Those designers are now only known by a generation who are 40+ and irrelevant to the shoppers needed to keep the Debenhams brand relevant on today’s high street.

With Arcadia group also struggling reputationally through the alleged actions of its high profile owner and also financially, they have a huge task ahead to transform. Reducing your retail footprint by closing stores to cut costs is not the solution, change is. But is it too late to turn some of Arcadias brands around, maybe not? The larger ‘flagship’ TopShop stores do it well by adopting shared spaces that offer consumers other brands or services like piercing or cosmetics to create an immersive shopping experience. Unfortunately, Topshop don’t seem to translate this successful format as well across the regions in the UK. Translating this ‘experience’ model across the entire estate is essential to relate to consumers who don’t necessarily have the means or desire to travel to a ‘flagship’ store. Placing short term profit over evolution is short-sighted as this approach is somewhat ironic, a lack of investment makes you stale rather than revolutionary, making a brand irrelevant to today’s shopper.

Those retailers who are winning have amalgamated, rather successfully, multiple brands under one roof that complement each other and often work in concert, to offer convenience for the shopper. Successful examples include the Argos purchase by Sainsbury’s and introducing Argos shop in shop (SiS) within larger Sainsbury formats and in 11 stores to include the desirable Habitat brand, which was snapped up by Argos several years back and now revived through the Sainsbury’s acquisition. This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

As the pioneer of mail order fashion, re-imagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. Brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa can be found in the Next Oxford Street store and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store. Unsurprisingly this approach works for both anchor brand and SiS. 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.

Those who complain that they can’t make retail work need look no further than their competition who are getting it right through understanding the zeitgeist. Shopping habits have changed with generational shifts and the glory days many failing retailers harp on about are not going to make a reappearance. It’s up to retailers to carve out a niche and appeal to the generations who now prefer both the physical and online aspects of retail, but are also seeking convenience and above all an experience.

Experience to try, taste, smell, learn, question, dwell to be part of something that transcends generations and the stereotypes of what ‘Retail’ should be. Retail can be whatever you want it to be.

Successful retail evolves to remain current and relevant to its audience. A retail renaissance is what we need.

To read the full article please visit ipm Bitesize

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Making a show of yourself

ert blog

The most successful of retailers that continue to occupy the high streets and retail parks of this great shopping nation do so because they have adapted. Adapted to provide the consumer, of all generations, with an experience that resonates with them. Now I’m not suggesting that this is some magical panacea or that they have discovered the proverbial fountain of retail youth but what they did do successfully is see into the future. An uncertain future in retail has been a dark shadow for several years now, so how did those who failed not get the message and adapt? And let’s face it, we all know that stores that are left bereft of investment do not create a positive experience for consumers.

So who does do experience well? Lush, who have just abandoned social media, knows what it takes to create the theatre and experience needed to entice the shoppers who will undoubtedly spend in their stores. Its ambience is an extension of the brand voice and its interactive nature immerses the consumer in the brand and its products which works irrespective of whether they are familiar with the brand. Its latest store opened in Liverpool last month and is circa 1,380 sqm. the biggest Lush in the World where ‘every detail has been carefully considered to create a fully immersive brand experience’. Some might say that’s bold and brave in the current climate, but I’d suggest it’s a move from a brand confident in its own ability to ‘retail well’.  Because above all the experiential hype, it’s the employees that create the true experience for Lush, something Debenhams perhaps forgot to acknowledge, so busy were they trying to keep the wolf from the door.

Experiential at the point of purchase is nothing without the support of well trained staff to carry the consumer through the journey and ultimately close the sale. The retailers who get this, win. They win by retaining motivated staff who feel valued and customers who having enjoyed the experience may well return in the near future or at the very least refer the retailer through recommendation.

On a recent shopping expedition with my Generation Alpha (under 9) son and daughter I sought to buy my son trainers. The displays were impactful and easy to navigate to what my son wanted but above all, it was the staff. An early 20s Generation Z shop assistant who spoke ‘indirectly’ to my son through his actions suggesting colours and designs. Disaster struck and the trainers my son wanted were not available in his size. Immediately considering another retailer or even going online, the sales assistant jumped in with “you can order these now on line from the store, pay for them here and have them delivered to your home for free”. Without hesitation, I said yes. We walked away all winners enjoying the experience, my son getting his trainers, the store not losing out on a sale and the sales assistant earning the kudos of the sale in his name. That’s omnichannel retailing in its purest form for you. How often has that happened to you?

No matter what you sell or who you believe your target market to be, the experience within your store will either make or break you. Think high end retail, are you kept waiting to be served? Are you unimpressed by the displays, the staging, the cleanliness or the ambience? I suspect the answer to all this is a resounding no. It is therefore unlikely that these stores succeed purely on their brand equity alone and before you all start saying that they can afford to do it, so can every retailer within their budget. At all levels of retail, the ability to create an experience that is worthy of your attention by consumers to entice them to spend is within your capability and budget of a retailers’ imagination and bravery.

For the retailers that succeed, they do so because they consider the experience it offers your customers. Is it engaging? Is it visually appealing? Does it speak to many of the few? Does your staff know how to bring this to life as a sales tool and succeed?

Consider John Lewis, a stalwart in British retail that if you were to base its appeal on its longevity should have failed by now. Having most recently invested £33 million in its new Westfield White City store, it also did it differently. The layout, the decor, the feel and more importantly the staff. Partners, as they are known in John Lewis, are attentive, knowledgeable and in abundance. The store’s secret is its appeal to those with disposable income and to those who aspire to shop there. It enables consumers to linger and take up as much of a Partners time to ask questions and explore a product. It works because they understand not only their audience but also the importance of never underestimating the worth of the shopper.

In hard economic times retailers and brands have to work harder to appeal to an individual’s tastes, requirements and above all budget. When failed retailers pretend not to know why they failed, they are not being honest. They failed to create an experience that appealed to a wide audience and their staff by not engaging with them positively to be the best they can. Ignorance is bliss for directors who don’t shop in their own stores.

The experience within any retailer is borne through your staff and the ability for staff to be brand advocates first and sales assistants second. Make the consumer feel special and they will listen. Keep the consumer informed and they will feel listened to. Keep the consumer engaged and they will shop.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

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Brand collaboration is the key to a high street retail revival

The Drum Blog

The high street is dying, or so we keep hearing from all angles of the media – but is it?

No. But it is evolving to meet the needs of generational shifts in shopping habits which retailers must adapt to in order to give consumers a desirable experience. Those that respond positively to shoppers and adapt, appreciate the increased value this change offers for potential survival.

Retail is no longer there to serve the customer, it’s the customer who decides if retailers remain relevant to the high street.

Those retailers that refuse to listen are deserving of their fate. It’s not a surprise or the fault of external factors when a major retailer, who failed to adapt, calls in the administrators. Social and economic factors are not going to ‘improve’ as they are proving to be the norm – it’s just how life is now – therefore boards of major retailers need to stop procrastinating and adapt fast.

With 89% of UK sales still generated through physical retail, the desire to shop on the High Street is still prevalent, retailers need to adapt creatively to capture a slice of those sales.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format. 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.

Clashing styles

From traditional retail chains to independents and pop up stores, the ones that ‘get it’ are doing so to great effect. Whether it be through introducing speaker spaces within the store, to conducting free classes or work zones to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere. By also introducing other brands to coexist alongside your brand, is winning hearts and minds. Retail is changing. Changing positively but perhaps not fast enough to decrease the failures of trusted retail brands and reduce the vacant units on our high streets.

Debenhams tried this by introducing Patisserie Valerie cafes within their stores which proved fatal for both brands, partly due to their incompetence to manage their finances or understand the consumer. You don’t ‘accidently’ misplace £40m neither do you introduce a traditional patisserie into an already stale retail format such as Debenhams, in an attempt to entice new and younger shoppers. The opportunity to revive its fortunes could be taken from its past when it introduced designer names to its stable with huge success. Those designers are now only known by a generation who are 40+ and irrelevant to the shoppers needed to keep the Debenhams brand relevant on today’s high street.

With Arcadia group also struggling reputationally through the alleged actions of its high profile owner and also financially, they have a huge task ahead to transform. Reducing your retail footprint by closing stores to cut costs is not the solution, change is. But is it too late to turn some of Arcadia’s brands around?

Maybe not. The larger ‘flagship’ TopShop stores do it well by adopting shared spaces that offer consumers other brands or services like piercing or cosmetics to create an immersive shopping experience. Unfortunately, Topshop don’t seem to translate this successful format as well across the regions in the UK. Translating this ‘experience’ model across the entire estate is essential to relate to consumers who don’t necessarily have the means or desire to travel to a ‘flagship’ store.

Placing short term profit over evolution is short-sighted as this approach is somewhat ironic, a lack of investment makes you stale rather than revolutionary, making a brand irrelevant to today’s shopper.

Retailers assemble!

Those retailers who are winning have amalgamated, rather successfully, multiple brands under one roof that complement each other and often work in concert, to offer convenience for the shopper. Successful examples include the Argos purchase by Sainsbury’s and introducing Argos shop in shop (SiS) within larger Sainsbury formats and in 11 stores to include the desirable Habitat brand, which was snapped up by Argos several years back and now revived through the Sainsbury’s acquisition. This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

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. Brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa can be found in the Next Oxford Street store and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store. Unsurprisingly this approach works for both anchor brand and SiS. 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.

Those who complain that they can’t make retail work need look no further than their competition who are getting it right through understanding the zeitgeist. Shopping habits have changed with generational shifts and the glory days many failing retailers harp on about are not going to make a reappearance. It’s up to retailers to carve out a niche and appeal to the generations who now prefer both the physical and online aspects of retail, but are also seeking convenience and above all an experience.

Experience to try, taste, smell, learn, question, dwell to be part of something that transcends generations and the stereotypes of what ‘Retail’ should be. Retail can be whatever you want it to be.

Successful retail evolves to remain current and relevant to its audience. A retail renaissance is what we need.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Re-Discovering the ‘Forgotten Tribe’ of Customer Service Experts

CXM Blog

Retail is buoyant, exciting, and transformative, so what better sector to be in right now?

This was the counterintuitive conclusion of a recent white paper produced by Retail Week in partnership with Manhattan Associates. Based on in-depth interviews with 25 senior retail executives, it showed that despite current obstacles affecting retail, 64 percent expected sales in 2019 to be flat or slightly better than last year. Twenty percent even estimated that sales will be much better than the past year.

Coupled with this, when questioned about the balance they are seeking between cutting costs and driving growth in order to achieve profitability, more than 50 percent cited ‘mostly growth’, indicative of a sector confident in its ability to progress. With 80 percent of shopping still happening on the high street  (ONS December 2018) not over the internet, now’s the time for retailers – especially brick and mortar – to define their future.

There’s been so much conversation about what’s driving retail strategy; innovation in technology driving back and front of store; data driven omnichannel insights providing a single view of the customer; experience rather than transactional stores. But if 80 percent of shopping still happens on the high street, there’s one area that’s being left behind and that’s the ‘people’ strategy to improve customer centricity and drive sales.

Let’s face it, it’s the one part of retail that often seems the weak link. If you are over 40 you may remember the days of ‘are you being served?’. Although somewhat exaggerated it was a real indicator of retail customer centricity – personal, caring, and over the top.

According to the survey, investment in customer service and experience is top alongside ecommerce strategy as a priority for execs in 2019. It is the only differentiator a business has to entice customers into their store environment if they don’t want to buy online and the product is widely available.

Businesses that started online, such as Misguided, are appearing on the high street and brick and mortar retailers are realising the unique benefits of their physical space and making plans to optimise it accordingly – whether that’s a lifestyle destination or concept store. Over the last decade, staff have been like a forgotten tribe: transient, paid the minimum wage, and left to roam the shop floor with little, if any product knowledge or customer training.

But retailers seem to be going full circle in realising the importance of a ‘people-first strategy’. In brick and mortar retail, the team on the floor are the most important asset, they are the ‘brand ambassadors’, the ones face to face with customers who can deliver a personal experience, explain products, give specialist advice, encourage a sale, and give customers that warm, cuddly feeling. But if it’s so important, realising it is not enough – retailers need to invest in and execute a people-first strategy.

So what does a people-first strategy entail? To start with, let’s ditch the word sales assistant – it has a very transactional connotation. Sixty-two percent of execs said one of their biggest challenges is finding the right people with the right skills, and if this doesn’t change, nor will retail.

We’re in new territory where sales assistants are the custodians of the customer’s brand experience and I think we’re getting somewhere here. If you search for sales assistants on job boards, many are being advertised as Customer Experience assistants. And whilst you may think this is a nuance, it’s a huge step forward in transforming the way people think about roles within retail and how retailers recruit.

Face-to-face retail isn’t going anywhere; it’s just changing, mainly driven by the expense of being on the high street, rather than people just buying online. This is presenting a multitude of opportunities for retailers – store within a store, click and try/buy, personalisation, and home delivery. Retailers just need to make sure they can capitalise on those opportunities.

Retail must put people and pay before profit, training before transactions, and nurture talent before staff turnover. This way you’ll have a people first strategy that will entice customers to come and enjoy discovering what it is you have on offer – an experience online can’t replicate. This way, retailers may give themselves a fighting chance of remaining profitable.

To read the full article please visit Customer Experience Magazine.

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