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New retail resilience

‘Resilient Retail’ is the title of the latest special report from the World Retail Congress*. Known for their platform of in-depth global research, content, and events, their latest report shares how retail leaders around the world are responding to the extraordinary challenges facing their local markets. Whilst different countries inevitably face different combinations of problems, the report highlights the common need for a new retail resilience.

Retail leaders have never faced so many challenges or had so many priorities in their roles and businesses. In spite of this, they remain focussed on the next phase of retail development. The report concludes that there is still a sense of optimism to be found, and of the recommended ‘6 key takeaways to drive retail strategies’ going forward, we were not surprised to see that ‘investment in bricks & mortar’ is featured.

The same optimism about the future role of the store is also evidenced in Barclays recent ‘What’s in store for retail’ report. This research shows that physical stores remain a crucial part of the buying process for UK consumers, with 67% agreeing that they see a continued future of and need for physical retail spaces.

The store won’t disappear but its role is changing

Undeniably, ecommerce continues to drive retail growth internationally but since the pandemic stores are bouncing back. In fact, here in the UK, stores maintain a stronghold with £3 in every £5 (excluding food) being spent in them. This month, Helen Dickinson of the BRC reported that September footfall reached its highest level since the onset of the pandemic, coming within 10% of pre-pandemic levels. It’s predominantly High Streets and Retail Parks that have seen the most improvement in shopper numbers, while Shopping Centres continue to lag behind.

So what is driving this return to the store? Barclays research reveals that consumers still associate in-store purchases with ‘trust and confidence’. What’s more, they found that 88% of retailers perceive physical retail as vital to their business. Our own post-pandemic consumer insights show that shoppers, whilst comfortable with the convenience of online, are returning to stores because they genuinely want in-person positive human contact and to get closer to the brands they love. And there is no better place to do this than in store.

The drivers of change

The Barclays report explores the drivers of change across the UK retail sector and praises the continuous adaptability of the retail sector. The pandemic created a new breed of shopper, and retailers are learning that a diverse business model is essential to stay ahead of the curve. Hybrid retail is here to stay, and retailers are finding operational and logistical advantages to having both a physical and digital presence.

Driving footfall into stores for added-value experiences is now common, and Barclays highlight that 30% of consumers say that they would be more likely to visit a store if it offered online return services. Barclays also flag the major growth of click-and-collect – an economy now worth £42.4 billion annually – as well as the creative thinking that many retailers now deploy to manage today’s economic volatility and the rapid rate of societal change. In fact, 9 out of 10 retailers surveyed by Barclays have invested in additional in-store experiences in a bid to entice more shoppers.

As retail designers, we know this investment in the store experience is working well for our clients. The consumer demand for new retail destinations was never more in evidence than at this weekend’s opening of London’s newly developed Battersea Power Station. Over a quarter of a million people – from the local community as well as further afield - visited this exciting and innovative city venue which has raised the bar for modern retail, hospitality and leisure venues.

So, we join the World Retail Congress and Barclays in applauding this new era of resilient retail and celebrating the adaptability of the store which continues to place itself at the heart of the customer journey and the retail experience.

* Resilient Retail is the latest report published by the World Retail Congress

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