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Retail predictions for 2019: the physical store is not dead!

Earlier this month one of our favourite retail commentators, Steve Dennis published his predictions for the coming year in retail. Entitled ‘Out On A Limb’ it caught the attention of our Client Services Director Rebecca Shaman, who broke a ‘limb’ in the autumn and who is still suffering the consequences!

Anyway, back to Steve Dennis and his predictions… Prediction No.3 in Steve’s list ‘The stores strike back’ got us cheering. Steve reminds retailers that their customers are the ‘channel’ and urges them to ‘harmonise their multichannel operations’. He suggests that the most successful retail operators are those that understand this and who place the physical store at the hub of a ‘brand’s ecosystem’.

Steve then goes on to give examples of retailers in his native North America who continue to get it wrong and compares these with brands who instead are innovating around the concept of ‘Stores as theatre’. Here in the UK there are of course plenty of similar examples to site, like the plight of Debenhams versus the innovator Selfridges who last year launched their unique wooden skate bowl concept in their London flagship store, giving Millennials and Generation Z streetwear shoppers a compelling reason to visit.

Of course most high street retailers won’t have the budget for such extravagant retail ‘experiences’ but it shouldn’t stop them exploring other opportunities. We always warn our clients that innovation for innovations sake is never the answer. If a retailer isn’t clear about the basics – who are we and who are our customers – then it doesn’t matter what size their budget is, they will never secure the ‘buy in’ necessary from their staff let alone create a desire from the consumer. Selfridges skate bowl works because they have invested time in understanding their place in the department store hierarchy. They have conducted thorough, ongoing research and know what their customers want. As a result 2018 was Selfridges twelfth consecutive year of record growth.

So what do you do if you are not a global luxury retail brand like Selfridges and you don’t have their budgets? Well, put simply this sort of success in retail takes work. It requires planning, a commitment to the longer term and of course a clearly communicated brand story across a multichannel operation.

But don’t worry it doesn’t always result in a skate bowl experience!
By simply investing in understanding the heart of your brand, then expressing it in clear, compelling and consistent ways to your consumers in store and throughout your communications is a great place to start.

So as we close the first month of the new year we wish you a brand-focussed, customer-centric 2019 and a very successful retail future.