Have you ever walked in to a fashion store and looked past the clothes? You’re probably thinking; “what the hell is he talking about?” But hear me out for a second. Next time you’re in your favourite high street fashion store, take a minute to look beyond the latest seasonal fabrics draped on the mannequin. Look behind that dress on the hanger, glistening in the spot light. Take a minute to absorb the actual setting that you’re shopping in. Take the clothes out of the equation and what does the environment say to you? In some retail stores you’re left with a comforting, maybe relaxin,g chilled out space that’s quite interesting. In others, you’re left with bits of metal fixtures, cracked tiles and tired looking sales desks, a some what rather sterile environment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about retail and shopping recently because there have been some big changes going on within this landscape. Any UK readers will be aware of the trouble HMV were in, shortly after they went into administration Blockbuster video also announced they’d be following them. Then within the last few weeks fashion retailer Republic, a Leeds based fashion brand, announced they were going into administration. Leeds also has a brand new shopping centre opening in the heart of the shopping district at the end of March so there is a lot going on at the moment.
But if the recent woes of some of Britain’s biggest retailers has illustrated one thing, it’s that no one is safe. Retailers have to stop being lazy when it comes to giving us a genuine shopping experience. Touching on what I wrote at the beginning of this article, take the clothes out of the store and there is nothing really enticing or great about the drab shopping space they’re showcasing their clothes in.
They need to be more creative in the way they use shopping spaces and also how they use technology. A lot of shops haven’t changed much in the last 30 years, they’re using the same or very similar lighting, technology, fixtures etc
One area that the high street can really learn from is the luxury retail sector. I recently read an article about how luxury brands are really embracing technology and making it a main feature in all their stores.
One of my favourite applications of it came from Burberry. It’s flagship store on Regent Street in London has the tallest retail screen, 550 speakers and a hydraulic stage for performances. But that’s not the most exciting bit, some of the clothes have RFID (radio frequency identification) chips implanted inside them. When a customer wears a piece that has one of these chips in it and stands in front of a mirror it transforms it into a screen showcasing how it would look on the catwalk, now that’s exciting. There are no till points, so you won’t find staff hiding behind them talking. Each advisor has an iPad and card reader so they can process a sale anywhere on the shop floor.
Burberry wanted their shopping space to be a physical version of their website and illustrate to their customers that they are a brand that’s current and in touch with today’s technology.
I was really taken back by how much they had done away with traditional shopping elements and really utilised technology to try and change the experience for the customer.
I don’t think that the brands I mentioned will be the last to announce troubles, I’m sure they’ll be further brands that announce they’re going into administration in the future. More brands should take a leaf out of the luxury sector’s book and at the very least, consider what sort of experience they’re giving their customers when they step foot into their stores.
Those that aren’t on top of this could find that they fall behind with the times, as technology is moving rapidly and the way we shop, often being dictated by it, there is no longer room for lazy retailers.
As always I’d love to hear your thought on the matter. What brands do you think are getting it right? Which ones are getting it wrong?
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