The Future of Retail

After non-essential shops re-open, we look ahead at what effects the pandemic will have on the future of high street retail.

Already at a turning point pre-pandemic, we will assess how the Covid-19 crisis has acted as an acceleration of trends and changes – and how brands should respond.

THE CURRENT CLIMATE

Pre-pandemic, the high street was changing, with a near 10% drop in footfall in the 7 years prior. High streets were adapting to combat the rise in popularity of shopping online or at retail parks and shopping centres.

In late 2019, experiential led stores were described as the ‘future of retail’ in Forbes magazine.  Experiential areas and experiences in-store were becoming popular, with councils looking to ‘respond to longer-term trends in how our high streets are used’ according to a government report.

From fashion shows, like our activation at TK Maxx Oxford Street in partnership with Cancer Research, to sensory installations such as our animatronic butterflies in Samsung’s new King’s Cross store, brands were investing and changing their retail locations, enabling better connections with consumers.

The challenge post Covid, is that ‘the pace of change and intervention will need to quicken as a result of the pandemic’ – we’ll explore how they can keep up and respond.

THE RISE OF LOCAL

The pandemic is ‘the perfect opportunity to repair the UK high street’s neglected social fabric’ according to the government’s Build Back Better report. There is now a greater emphasis on creating places that serve a specific, local community.

The Nike ‘Live’ concept stores are great examples of this. Nike analysed buying patterns, app usage and member engagement for their Long Beach store to explore what made the ideal, go-to location. After identifying ‘women in sport’ as an important cornerstone for their new location using data, they engaged with their key market, providing their consumers with a huge range of products to choose from.

As more businesses work towards a hybrid model of working, changing geographical demands of consumers is a factor brands should consider. Utilising metrics and data, brands are going to need to be agile in where and how they are choosing to engage with consumers. This is now the perfect opportunity for brands to invest in ‘pop up’ retail hubs.

POP UP HUBS

Many brands were already trailing and running experiential led stores in specific areas before the pandemic.

For their ‘Explore’ collection launch in 2019, Fila opened up seven experiential-led stores throughout the world. Based around the four categories of the collection, the pop-ups guided visitors through ‘eco zones’, each was Instagram friendly, with panel discussions and other on-site events at each too.

Further, in 2019, Sainsbury’s used data and a localised approach to open the UK’s ‘first meat free-butcher’ shop in East London in response to a poll conducted by the supermarket, which found that more than half of Britons have never tried a plant-based alternative to meat. The pop up attracted a huge amount of press coverage, providing a growing number of their consumers with a clear sign that they were listening and responding to their needs.

THE BRAVE NEW (RETAIL) WORLD

In the last year, habits of consumers have been re-enforced and strengthened. How retail spaces should operate alongside their e-commerce operations is more important than ever. According to LS Retail, ‘customers want to be able to move between online, physical and delivery channels seamlessly, and they will expect retailers to move to where they are now to make their lives safer, more fulfilling and more convenient’.

Pop ups like Brown’s ‘Nomad’ events could show the way. Brown’s adopted a ‘roaming’ pop up, targeting areas where they could grow. Attendees shopped for clothes on display via the brand’s app, with the space hosting local artists, speakers and live performances. Events were open to the public and could be booked via the Browns Fashion website.

This omnichannel experience, combining digital and experiential led spaces, will be a big part of the new retail word. Combining the right tools, in the right spaces, at the right locations, can create new opportunities to engage and re-engage with consumers.