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