How will stores adapt and change to combat the challenges of the High Street?

Jamie Orme

It’s been a view of mine, for many years, that high street stores and in particular, retail stores, are varying degrees of the same, yes, we occasionally see a brand try to be different and offer something alternative to the customer, but in the main, the environment is all focused on product and selling.

Sales and profit have been the pillars of the industry for many, many years.

The past 12 months have arguably been the most challenging retail environment, the high street has ever faced, with huge numbers of stores either closed, or set to close and this is across all sectors, fashion, lifestyle, leisure, food, health & beauty. No sector has been immune to the challenges we face and we’re still faced with.

Yes, some food stores have traded well, possibly even thrived, over the past year but that has been in large part due to the fact that they’ve been the only option available, when the supermarkets have to compete again with restaurants and leisure operators, they will feel the competition and it will have an affect on their performance.

I work closely with a number of retailers, across a number of sectors, advising them on all elements of their property portfolios, from initial strategy to acquisitions and beyond.

One of my major thoughts over the past 12 months, is how can the brands I represent, improve their customer experience and enhance the brand performance.

Fred Perry, one of the most iconic and globally recognised brands, have been visionary with their views here, they have worked incredibly hard, to try and fully understand, what is it that their customers wants from the store experience, how can the physical presence of a store work beyond that of the online business, which is extremely successful.

They have looked hard at brand engagement across their portfolio of stores, have carried out works to evolve their properties to become not only places to retail from, but for people to go and enjoy spending time in, regardless of whether they are shoppers or not.

They want people to understand and engage fully with the Fred Perry brand and most importantly their culture, which has always been a corner stone of the business.

The creation of the ‘Fred Perry museum of culture and youth’ showcases this view point perfectly. They have removed existing sales space from their Camden store, and have invested in showcasing the heritage of the brand, telling the story and history of where it’s been and how it’s got to where it is, which is not only fascinating but something which creates a sense of understanding and ultimately loyalty from the customer, because they in turn become invested into the culture and brand as a result.

Whilst Fred Perry are not alone in experimenting with new ways to engage the customer, I do feel that their strategy will be hugely successful for them and will create a further legacy which they will continue to enjoy and benefit from.

It’s going to be fascinating how other brands look at evolving over the next 12 months and beyond, because simply selling product is no longer enough.

So, is this the vision of future shopping habits?

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Explore the UK and support our homegrown businesses

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Breakthrough Brands – How to find the next big retailer!

By Evie North

Now the UK starts to transition out of lockdown, the retail, leisure and restaurant market is inevitably in a very different place as operators look at ways in which they can adapt to the ‘new normal’.  Some operators are geared up to implement change and modify their businesses to work around the government measures of social distancing, for others, these measures may be harder to execute leaving them in a more challenging position.

The immediate impact that COVID-19 has had on the market has resulted in a number of occupiers going into administration and the market is anticipating many more announcements in the coming few months. For some of the larger businesses, this gives them the opportunity to close stores and streamline their property portfolio by re-opening fewer sites once lockdown restrictions are lifted. There are of course some operators who are rationalising their portfolio by utilising breaks and expiries to reduce store exposure. Subsequently, this will leave many landlords with rental voids and vacant units.

As agents, we recognise the importance of keeping our ears to the ground and the need to be proactive in our approach to search out the ‘next best’ exciting and emerging operators. Even before COVID-19 I was continually contacting independent operators to understand their appetite for expansion, but now this task is more vital than ever as the number of voids increase and consumer preference has been steered towards independent or boutique stores due to the more personalised retail experience.

In order to seek out the next “Breakthrough Brands”, the young independent brands or the online businesses who will form the pool of talent for the tenants of the future, we have utilised a number of approaches to develop our database which now holds approximately 800 retailers, restaurants and leisure operators. However, it’s fair to say we have found social media and in particular Instagram to be highly successful in securing a route to speaking directly with new perspective tenants who are passionate and proactive about their brands. The owners are often the respondents to their Instagram enquiries, so are generally only too happy to chat. Many highly successful brands started online before taking stores, Allbirds, Made, and Glossier to name a few were all online before they took bricks and mortar sites and with the growth of the powerful generation Z consumer, the need for a 360 omnipresence’s should not be overlooked.

Another successful route to finding new tenants has been our ‘door stepping’ approach, the old- fashioned process of visiting new emerging areas of London and beyond, knocking on the door and asking for the contact details of the owners. This tends to be as equally successful as our social media approach, as often the owners are in store and love to engage with someone who is genuinely interested in how their brand is developing.

As a business, we have invested a considerable amount of time and energy into developing these unique relationships and we are sure this will put us into good stead for helping our clients to secure tenants on both a short and long terms basis, which will help us create a point of difference and a unique reason to visit our shopping destinations.

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