As restrictions relax and our cities reopen, what’s in store for our high streets? To bring some insight, we met with a panel of industry insiders to discuss the new rules of retail. Our speakers included: Lauretta Roberts, Founder of TheIndustry.Fashion, Richard Whitaker, Creative Director of Andthen Studio and Alice Hagger, Head of Brand of MADE.com.
Here’s what we learned:
Hygiene and experience will have equal importance.
Following government guidelines in your store will be paramount, but it’s crucial to make sure it doesn’t compromise your customer’s experience. Alice recounted striking this balance when reopening in France: “We gave guidelines, but you can’t follow every single customer around the store, it’s not very pleasant. So now, people are touching the furniture but we are cleaning as discreetly as possible. We also rented a bicycle to give out candies and drinks to people in our queues — we have to deliver that pleasant experience.” After a recent trip to Soho for customer insights, Lauretta argued that hygiene wasn’t actually affecting experience at all: “I thought people would be unsure about the instore measures, but people are quite adaptable. I even saw kids matching facemasks to their outfits — it’s becoming an accessory.”
Conversion will be key
It’s positive news that customers are keen to return to the streets, but with limited numbers allowed in stores, retailers will need to consider carefully how they will meet sales targets. Alice noted that MADE.com was currently tackling this issue in their showrooms: “Customers have been surfing on our website for two months, so when they visit they want to spend lots of time talking with our staff, but we can only host 10 people in an 800 sqft showroom. It’s been really tricky.” Lauretta offered some advice for brands to remedy this: “To convert customers, the basics of retail are going to be vitally important. Staff training, knowledge of trends and making it easy for customers to pay are all going to be crucial.”
There will be a resurgence of local retail
One trend all our panellists were excited for was shopping local. For Richard, this was a great opportunity for independent brands to invest into local communities, and Lauretta told us how she’d seen many executing it well: “Now that local shops have become lifelines for people self-isolating, they’ve really got to know them and have been communicating via their socials to engage and sell. One of my local shops even has ‘Text us if you need anything’ in their front window!” Although MADE.com is seen as a larger brand, Alice also remarked that she’d seen locals engage more with their showrooms: “We see real traction in the areas we have a showroom because every day you pass by, you think of the brand all day long. It means they feel they can pass by and get some advice like a local shop.”
Successful stores will combine IRL and URL.=
Although we live in an increasingly digital era, all our panellists noted that the future of retail would see a blending of online and offline. “I think there’s a hand in hand relationship between online and physical,” said Richard, “Now with this new click and collect model we’re seeing, there’s a huge level of experience to be tapped into.” Alice counted French brand Sezane: “They closed all their shops but opened a ‘Conciergerie’. People are now going there to do returns, have their items repaired, or even get some advice.” She remarked how this was a model all brands could use when reopening: “The reason people are going back outside is because they want to be with people. You just have to find the right way to connect.”
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