Shaping the future of retail
by Anthony Behiels, Director, SDEA
Retail and leisure have become intrinsically linked over the past 20 years, with the leisure side becoming stronger and more diverse year on year.
When Land Securities launched Bluewater in 1999 it broke the retail mould and became a success overnight. With a vast array of food courts offering everything from fine dining to a quick bite, cinemas, arts, culture and regular events, plus all manner of retail disciplines imaginable, it became the benchmark for successful retail practice.
20 years on, there is a long list of other such innovative, experiential developments. From The Bullring in Birmingham to St David’s in Cardiff and Trinity Leeds to Westfield in London, it’s easy to see why the partnership has become so prevalent.
Consumers want environments that create meaningful and sustainable experiences; places where they can meet friends and enjoy quality family time, attend events, share a meal, have some fun and needless to say, shop for some of the best products available.
Omnichannel shopping has pushed these boundaries even further recently and now over 50% of sales take place on a mobile phone, tablet or PC. As technology continuously advances and sparks our desire to keep pace, so does experiential retail. Whether at home or on the go, consumers have a constant stream of messages and alerts from their favourite brands.
You can find the closest store, latest products, special offers and events and never miss out. Even brands that you haven’t yet encountered are vying for your attention as they cleverly monitor your online usage.
This new level of retail intelligence has opened the doors for much diversification. Pop up stores are popping up regularly within malls (and on the high street) – initially used more by new brands and independents to gauge the market – and now, from cars to make up, every type of retailer is creating temporary shops.
Porsche recently showcased its latest model within the glamorous surroundings of Victoria Gate Leeds. They are not alone, it has become fairly common place to find cars or even car showrooms in malls. For example, Rockar opened its first on-mall showroom at Bluewater.
The outlets famous for their lack of staff where customers are enticed by digital footage and interact with touch screen technology to help source cars, lead the way for others. Even World Vision UK created a pop up store in Bluewater called The Story Shop to help raise awareness and donations. They attracted passersby with an unusual and engaging display and interactive technology.
Equally, high street retail has also responded with all-encompassing, experiential stores.
More commonly associated with book shops where a cup of coffee and place to sit fits nicely with a good read, mainstream retail has embraced the concept too. ‘House of Oasis’ was developed to maximise its appeal offering its clientele something different. The Tottenham Court Road store has a quaint and quirky cafe that becomes a bar after dark, a health and beauty salon and a changing area complete with elegant furniture that is large enough for a group of girls to engage.
Elaborate pictures line the wall and a double height ceiling add to the effect, increasing dwell time and fully immersing you in the Oasis experience.
Naturally, this is all good news for the shopfittings and display industry, which has undoubtedly benefitted from the opportunities that this retail explosion has created. In what are still difficult times and despite being stretched by ever tighter budgets and increasingly short lead times, manufacturers and suppliers are responding by differentiating their own businesses to meet the demands and are also leading the way.
Developing innovative products for the market is part and parcel of the display industry, and is always most successful when done in unison with the retailer. Whether it’s an eco-mannequin to combat Co2 emissions, a behaviour intelligence tool to help optimise store layouts, dynamic lighting that gives the illusion of movement for a real experiential feel, or state of the art large digital screens to deliver the brand message – retail display has many guises.
For as long as our needs grow alongside technological developments, we will be seeing further retail supplier partnerships that will shape the future of retail with even greater diversification.