Archive for September, 2021

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The UK’s high streets may have lost 388 stores over the past five years, but fashion retailers are starting to see more than a glimmer of hope for the future.

For instance, there were stronger-than-expected sales this summer: analysis by BDO shows that sales of fashion and footwear rose by 28.19% year on year in the week to 15 August. Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer reported that its clothing and homeware sales had shot up by an impressive 92.2% year-on-year in the four months to 14 August this year, down by just 2.6% on 2019/2020 figures.

If that wasn’t enough for retailers to breathe a collective sigh of relief, there was also the news that La Samaritaine – a 151-year-old Parisian department store that has been closed for the past 16 years – reopened its doors in June this year.

Iconic store, iconic retail experiences

The interior of the LVMH Group-owned store has been meticulously restored to its former glory. And whether seen in person or virtually, the ornate decor evokes a longing for a time when in-store shopping (and international travel) were much simpler.

Aside from being extraordinarily Instagrammable, La Samaritaine’s reopening also says a lot about the future of luxury bricks and mortar retail.

As Eléonore de Boysson, DFS group president for Europe and the Middle East (LVMH’s retail arm) said: “Bricks and mortar is not dead in our mind.”

She continued: “We need to give the client a real experience, which goes far beyond shopping.” As a result, you will find an array of nail bars, hair salons, restaurants and bars within the iconic store, all geared towards creating a memorable in-store experience rather than boosting product sales.

The move towards experiential retail

As with so many areas of retail, the Covid-19 pandemic has altered the industry’s view of experiential retail. The evidence suggests that consumers are now happy to buy luxury goods online, which means retailers need to give shoppers a really good reason to step inside bricks and mortar stores. In other words, offering them an experience to remember.

Online shopping offers customers convenience, but many crave the human, emotional connection that can only be provided through in-store interaction. That makes physical stores a vital touchpoint for brands.

Selfridges is another luxury department store that is placing its future in the hands of experiential. In recent years, the store has invested heavily in pop-ups, art installations and even an indoor skate bowl. The goal is to entice customers back – whether that’s a return in-store, online or a combination of the two is beside the point.

As Selfridges managing director Andrew Keith explains: “It’s about making sure that they value the relationship and enjoy the discovery.”

Acceleration of localisation

Pre-pandemic, Selfridges relied heavily on tourists to keep its sales buoyant. With many people still avoiding international travel, the store is now looking to strengthen its local customer base by creating hubs that “reflect the lifestyles and trends that are happening at a very local level”.

The volume of local sales (where customers buy products in their own countries rather than overseas) has a huge influence on the luxury retail market. And as post-pandemic flexible work patterns allow more people to move out of cities, we have seen the creation of luxury hubs in places you might not expect.

Global China: Its retail influence

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest area for store growth is China. Here, it didn’t take long for the luxury goods market to recover, with shoppers keen for opportunities to ‘experience the brand’.

As soon as restrictions in China were lifted, consumers flooded back to physical stores, making a flurry of luxury purchases. Brands and retailers soon realised their customers were keen to try products and interact with other humans. But more importantly, they realised customers wanted to be bowled over.

Wendy Yu is a Chinese investor, philanthropist and luxury customer who enjoys shopping online, but can also see the role played by physical stores. She says: “Going in-store should be almost like jumping into a live magazine. I am in discovery mode – I’m interested in the edit, the curation and I want to see new things, touch, feel, smell.”

Blurring physical and digital

As our online and offline lives become more closely aligned, the question is what form the in-store environment should take. A nod to old-world glamour as seen in La Samaritaine? Or a move towards more modern, tech-driven spaces that create a digitalised physical experience?

This blurring of physical and digital retail is becoming an increasingly common feature of today’s retail. In-store retail tech such as interactive mirrors, on-the-spot payments, smart vending machines and AR are helping retailers build a stronger rapport with customers.

But the future of retail needs to have the right balance of traditional luxury and modern technology. Your customers want a shopping experience that is seamless, frictionless and convenient. They also want you to address classic customer pain points.

The team at Delta can help you create a retail experience to remember. Get in touch to find out how we can help you connect with your customers and boost sales: hello@thedeltagroup.co.uk.

Adaptation is the key to department store success in the future. This is the stark message being sent out to the UK’s large high street stores following new research by commercial property information firm CoStar Group.

According to the findings, 83% of the UK’s department stores have closed over the past five years. The decline, which kicked off with the closure of BHS in 2016, has continued during that time, not helped by the impact of Covid-19.

Research shows that only a small proportion of department store closures over the past five years have been re-let, with definite plans or approval for a change of use.

Speaking about these findings to the BBC, Mark Stansfield, CoStar Group’s head of analytics said: “The data undoubtedly highlights the acceleration of change in the retail sector in recent years, which the pandemic has only exacerbated.”

However, Stansfield doesn’t believe these spaces will remain empty for long.

He continued: “We are increasingly seeing forward-thinking real estate owners getting ahead of the problem and reshaping what are key assets in our town centres to provide a focal point for regeneration.”

“I think we’ll see many more plans come to light in the coming months. With these store closures come new opportunities.”

As retail has increasingly moved online, physical department stores have suffered. This hardship was accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, with 118 Debenhams stores closing and John Lewis cutting its stores from 50 to 34.

Department store retailers still operating now need to adapt in order to survive. According to Paul Kirkland, Fujitsu’s retail and hospitality development director, Department stores need to “move into new channels”.

As Kirkland explains: “With the right omnichannel mix they can still thrive across stores, online and invest in the right blend of people, fulfilment, logistics and supply chain infrastructure. If customers are confident that in-store offerings will mirror the online, it will satisfy them at every touchpoint.

“After all, choice has never been so important.”

If you’re looking for ways to give your customers more choice and move towards omnichannel marketing, the team at Delta can help. Get in touch today to find out more: hello@thedeltagroup.co.uk.

New research has shown UK customers are happy to pay 9% more for a product if it comes to them alongside exemplary customer service.

The findings reveal not only that shoppers are willing to spend more, but also emphasises the value they place on the in-store experience. The research, conducted by Puzzel and cited by the Retail Tech Innovation Hub, confirms the crucial role played by bricks and mortar stores in retailers’ omni-channel offerings.

When it comes to customer service, evidence shows that nothing beats human interaction. Over two in ten (21%) respondents said that in-store was their preferred channel for customer service, followed by email (18%), live web chat (16%) and voice calls (14%).

But customers also place a lot of value on trust: 35% of those questioned felt in-store customer service representatives were more trustworthy than the virtual alternatives.

Following the rise in Zoom video chats between friends and family during the pandemic, consumers are recognising the benefits video can offer within retail, too. A total 54% of respondents who said they had used video calls for customer service said they had a positive experience. Interestingly, 57% said they were relatively new recruits to using video chat for customer service.

Retailers need to step up and deliver a more personalised customer experience – after all, 76% of shoppers expect just that.

In addition, 35% expect customer service agents to have background knowledge about their enquiry, and 23% want to move easily between customer support channels.

In fact, the only sticking point is data: 55% said they did not feel completely comfortable giving retailers and brands permission to collect their personal information.

Speaking about the research findings, Jonathan Allan, CMO at Puzzel explained the extent to which customer expectations and behaviours had changed over the course of the pandemic.

Allan stated: “Despite largely positive experiences during the pandemic, our research reveals a clear requirement for retailers to deliver more personalised customer service, across a broad range of channels, in-store and online.”

He also highlighted the ongoing desire for more human experiences and the importance of “re-creating that in-store experience across digital platforms.”

As we move towards a more hybrid future of retail, the better equipped retailers are to deliver smarter, connected customer experiences, the more likely they will thrive post-pandemic and beyond.

Are you looking for smarter, more personalised ways to connect with your customers? Get in touch with the team at Delta to find out how we can help. 

Drop us a line today: hello@thedeltagroup.co.uk.

Economies are reopening and tourism is resuming. That gives consumers the green light to head back to the high street. But we’re getting mixed messages.

On one hand, there’s a survey by Qubit that reveals 85.9% of consumers in the UK and US plan to continue shopping the same way or more online.

On the other, there’s evidence that the high street still has a special place in many consumers’ hearts. According to the Retail Unlocked report by Barclays, 40% of UK customers are planning to step up their in-store shopping over the next 12 months, while 41% confirm it remains their favourite way to shop.

Shopper behaviour has clearly changed as a result of the Covid pandemic – but the focus should perhaps move away from whether consumers favour physical or digital retail. Instead, retailers need to recognise that what customers really want is a seamless omnichannel experience.

The modern shopper wants it all. They want the convenience of ecommerce (accessible stock information and home delivery). But they also don’t want to miss out on the social aspect of high streets – not to mention the ability to try before you buy.

And while online shopping is here to stay (the Qubit study showed that 27.7% of UK shoppers plan to shop more online this Christmas than last), ecommerce cannot tick all the boxes. Almost nine in ten (87.6%) customers say that they feel overwhelmed by the amount of choice they have when shopping online.

Speaking about the findings, Tracey Ryan O’Connor, chief revenue officer at Qubit said: “To fully leverage the growth in ecommerce, retailers must factor in how consumers shop to meet customer expectations on the experiences they deliver, ensuring they’re aligned with current shopping trends.”

If you are looking for ways to create a more seamless omnichannel customer experience, Delta can help. Get in touch with the team today: hello@thedeltagroup.co.uk.