There are retail themes and trends that can shape the future of the industry.
As we now look to 2017 with optimism, what can we all learn from what has happened in the months preceding?
Rather than this being an article that looks at the retail trends to watch out for, lets highlight some common themes that have played a role in what we have been discussing at Resolution Interiors.
Everything comes down to maximising the retail space that businesses operate within and the connection with a customer base.
If dialogue is restricted when working with retail suppliers, silos can challenge objectives to create a consistent touch point for the customer.
Trusting intellectual opinion can go a very long way, as highlighted in the launch of Great Little Trading Company (GLTC) first ever store, where a circle or trust, knowledge and experience was encouraged to flow.
The retailer/supplier relationships that fail to build momentum are those where value is viewed as a limited capacity and cost becomes the primary driver.
If a retailer is committed to change it needs to be instilled by someone who is going to manage the change.
Linked to retailers not working in silos (above), a brand needs to be continually challenged for why they exist and the continual role that they play within the marketplace.
An outside resource becomes a space for brands to tap into throughout their journey and when they come to pivotal points of their generational development.
The whole purpose of this is to remain continually relevant to a targeted audience, rather than become another watershed moment for UK retail (Woolworths, Jessops, BHS etc.).
Retailers will continue to connect with customers on a personal level and in a way to test new ideas. The blurring of boundaries is evident.
Retailers are reimagining the physical space by creating a way where virtual and physical worlds combine.
We looked at the shop in a shop concept, where brands sell products within a larger store with a set of merchandising units. Whilst pop-up shops are transient in nature, a shop in a shop allows a brand to make statement over a longer period of time and have associated values with a complimentary brand.
Retail consultancy Fitch highlighted the challenge for retailers today by saying that, “speed to market is no longer enough, rather we find ourselves in a market based on speed.”
The physical space has to sit in the centre of the retail universe, so it has to revolve around what people want and how they behave during the year. The retail experience has to be driven by a role to serve an audience.
The need to adapt and change on a continual basis makes absolute sense. The in-store environment becomes the hub for a community. Retailers have to change with their customers. This can be driven when there is a true partnership between retailer and supplier and the ability to make subtle improvements.
Retail stores will become a place of a deeper purpose and curated around a cause.
The physical space has to establish a deeper emotional connection with a targeted audience. It has to be more than selling products.
This means a brand promise has to match the beliefs and attitudes of customers. For instance, Mamas and Papas new concept store in Westfield or Majestic Wine’s Tasting Clubs. Both curated experiences to offer inclusivity within a community hub, something that the digital space cannot provide.
Physical retail can become more than generating footfall, but as social, work and leisure spaces, increasing dwell time and brand loyalty.
As long as a retailer remains authentic to what they believe in and the role they provide to their audience, there is every reason to do things that are new.
It all comes down to knowing who your customer is and they know what you stand for. For instance, The Midcounties Co-operative has, over the years, expanded their portfolio from travel, to energy, to funerals. This is a company that has stayed true to the essence of its brand.
If a retailer can identify a gap in the market and the fit with their customer looks natural, it can become a sound investment.
Physical retail is a living entity, it has a pulse and needs to be fed, listened to and nurtured. It is the active embodiment of a brand, not just an active sell.
What the points from 2016 highlight is the need for the union of space between retailer, supplier and customer to help provide experiences that can transcend price and convenience.
The whole objective is to connect with a customer base that believes. If the physical space can embrace programmes, initiatives and invites participation, then customers have been provided with a reason to visit.
This is a theme that we are going to explore in more detail at the next Retail Outlet forum (scheduled for April 2017). How can the physical space nurture a consistent customer journey that connects?