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Editor's Comment: A tale of two store strategies

Keely Stocker

In the midst of several high-profile company voluntary arrangements (CVAs), retailers are fighting to prove that evolution is the key to survival – particularly when it comes to the high street.

Value retailer Primark and US fashion and lifestyle brand Anthropologie both opened new UK stores last week to much acclaim.

Although Primark and Anthropologie on face value are vastly different, the strategies that sit behind the stores have distinct similarities.

It will come as no surprise that in both cases, it is all about experience. But more importantly, knowing the target customer inside out and tailoring that experience to drive them in store.

For Primark, the massive 160,000 sq ft store over five floors is fun, engaging and social, both in terms of “in real life” – encouraging friends to shop together via its large group changing room – and online, with Instagram opportunities at every turn.

In contrast, Anthropologie’s 2,898 sq ft store is a fraction of the size, but that does not dilute its impact. Set across four floors, it is a calm and considered store all about inspiration and relaxation, and has an aspirational lifestyle design.

Alongside the experience, both stores highlight that it is no longer just about clothing. Fashion makes up 50% of the offer at Anthropologie alongside homeware, stationery and gifting, which all add to the store’s ambiance. For Primark, the offer includes homeware and beauty, but also the introduction of several cafes and restaurants, a barber, a beauty salon and a customisation lab in collaboration with Warner Bros and Disney that allows customers to create personalised T-shirts at speed.

Both stores also have a strong community focus. Anthropologie’s Peter Ruis highlighted his ambition to open smaller-format stores in market towns. Each store is designed by local artists to appeal to the surrounding community. It’s a similar case with Primark, which has included details throughout the store to connect with the Birmingham customer. A quick search on social media highlights the vast number of times the “Hello Brum … Find Your Amazing” welcome sign has been snapped alone.

Both retailers are opening stores in a clearly defined, strategic way, in carefully considered locations, with store design and execution aimed perfectly at their target customer. They are creating a unique experience and offer, they are including more than just fashion and they are tailoring the store to the local community to give customers a reason to come and take part in their store experience.

In a market rife with store closures, Primark and Anthropologie are not just bucking the trend, they are doing it with a bang and offering important lessons for other retailers.

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