Any retailers who have resisted the challenge of the multi-channel world must now know that the game is up. Even if you wanted to stay faithful to a strategy that revolved entirely around your physical stores then you have most likely have been forced to the online table by business rates, lacklustre consumer spending and the fact that your competitors are opening up a competitive edge by taking a more evolved approach.
So what does the future hold for physical stores? They won’t die out but there will be a lot less of them than even 10 years ago. However, they will be ‘smarter’ (both in terms of brand and connectivity) and also start providing a ‘real life’ portal for online brands.
A good example of this evolution is the French fashion brand, Sézane, which had its beginnings on eBay, before moving to a branded online platform. Having opened physical stores in Paris and New York, the brand’s creator, Morgane Sézalory, has now opened its first London store in Notting Hill, after a successful pop-up trial in South Molton Street.
This increasing presence of pure-play online brands on the high street is being supplemented by a growing number of brands such as Samsung, Dyson and Volkswagen, which previously sold through stockists, but are now looking to go direct to the consumer through their own store networks.
Given London’s vast array of brands and shopping offers, these trends are of central importance to the capital. Requirements from both domestic and international retailers for larger London stores appear to be reducing, but there is still demand for smaller and more affordable space with brands looking to make a flagship statement to complement their online strategy. It’s about ‘rightsizing’ store portfolios to focus customer attraction, reduce cost and drive profit.
The arrival of Crossrail will make London shopping destinations more accessible but it won’t be a panacea. Shoppers need to want to get to your store – there needs to be a need.
Whether that’s something as basic as being able to try something on or you have been compelled to visit by a fantastic social media campaign, the physical store still has a central role in retailing. Not least because people tend to spend more when they’re in a store than when they’re browsing online.
Like the Love Island contestants, shoppers tend to be more impulsive when they see something they want in real life.