The need for retail stores has been called into question like never before during recent years. Our high streets endured a less than successful 2018, with store closures across the country marking the worst Christmas UK retail has seen for 10 years.
2019 hasn’t got off to a great start either, with several huge names entering administration (Debenhams, LK Bennett and Patisserie Valerie to name but a few). As chains across the UK weigh up the costs associated with store estate, business only continues to boom for online retailers such as Amazon and Boohoo who both experienced a sales rocket during 2018.
Is this the end of bricks-and-mortar shopping?
With international analysis by Euromonitor predicting that by 2022, 83% of goods will still be bought in-store, it’s safe to say no. People still enjoy visiting the high street. We’re a long way away from an online-only retail experience, and whilst some offline shops are closing, other online stores are seeking a high-street presence.
The high-street isn’t dying – it’s merely evolving. To be able to thrive, it must develop a bigger purpose than just selling. It’s time for brands to use their physical stores to delight shoppers with immersive brand experiences that cannot be replicated online.
Big brands like Nike and Apple have already been doing this for a while, and other retailers are starting to follow suit. Take Primark for example. Their new experiential store in Birmingham completely bucks the downward trend. The world’s largest Primark boasts a whopping 160,000 sq ft store with 5 floors housing a barber, a beauty bar, multiple dining experiences and even a Disney themed café. CEO Paul Marchant stated that shoppers want to feel inspired and excited when they visit the high street, and that explains why experiential retail has become so important.
Retail giant Lush has also begun investing in experiential retail. Their new Liverpool flagship store is five times the size of the previous branch in the city and is bursting with new initiatives such as an in-store florist, a hair lab, a perfume library selling fragrances and books on perfumery – there’s even a children’s party area that lets kids play with and make products. The Lush Lens app lets shoppers discover product information and access demos. Mark Constantine (CEO) says “it’s very early days but the early sales are very strong”.
People can browse and buy anywhere online. So, in an experience economy, people need to be given a reason to physically be there – then they will shop.