Monthly Column By Leanne Wookey
Retail is now becoming a lot more interactive, what does this mean for the high street and online outlets?
Britain’s high street has been in steady decline in recent years, with profit slumps forcing mega brands such as House of Fraser and New Look to close a large number of their stores across the UK. This has been accelerated by the growth of online ecommerce giants such as Amazon and ASOS, which show no signs of slowing down.
I have seen radical change across the industry and more of a consideration as to how a design rethink can positively help retail – but what are retailers doing to compete with online outlets and how is this set to revolutionise the industry?
I have noticed that retail is increasingly becoming about the full experience. People buy into a brand for their values and the lifestyle they emulate – something that goes above and beyond your traditional high-street shopping experience, a strong logo on a shop front is no longer enough to attract customers.
Design for this sector has had to rapidly evolve to cater for the changing consumer need. We now focus on the authentic experience. Retailers need to create spaces that engage people rather than just providing apparel, not when there are now so many ways to do this online.
Pioneering this concept is the likes of WIT Fitness, a global online multi-brand retailer and training brand. They have successfully created a 360 approach that incorporates retail, gym, nutrition and activation, facilitated by the clever and innovative design elements, which engage with some of the biggest athletic brands in the world to deliver or reflect similar values and approaches to their lifestyles.
Even mainstream retail companies are transforming their offering creating spaces which offer more engaging experience. High street retail brand Primark recently opened a ‘Central Perk’ café in their Manchester store – a replica of the Friends-themed café, including everything from coffee cups, to New York-themed drinks and snacks, a walk-in salon and nail bar, providing the ‘one stop shop experience to come in grab an outfit, get your look right and go straight out.
Kate Spade opened ‘Saturday’ which provided a 24hr shopping window so that even when the shop was closed you could make your purchase at the interactive screen which gives a new spin to the phrase ‘Window shopping’.
Patagonia in Manchester boasts two floors of apparel and accessories, a basement area which can be adapted into an event and meeting space for talks, NGO’s and environmental organisations, free yoga classes, film screening nights and their cash desk also doubles as a coffee point and bar depending on the time of day. Activating spaces and engaging the customer in different ways is key!
Experience-led stores such as the Samsung store in Kings Cross is a good example of this, centred around the idea of ‘bringing technology to life’ by creating an interactive space where customers can try out the all the new gadgets, as a way of showcasing their products while giving people a reason to go into the store.
These are just a few examples that I am seeing and discussing with clients on how high street retailers are competing with online outlets, to create an ‘interactive’ experience – something which cannot be achieved from online shopping. These retailers are leading this revolution by recognising the competitive edge needed to keep their brand alive, and the ways that they can combat the growing e-commerce trend while joining the growth instead of falling to its projected success.
Leanne Wookey, Director at tp bennett