This week we launch the first of our sector-by-sector Hit or Miss series with a visit to the new Westgate Oxford shopping centre to focus on the womenswear offer.
Following last season’s report, we have taken a lot of feedback on board. We have not only made each review more comprehensive, but also split out each rating by product, presentation (the store’s visual merchandising, design and layout), customer service, value for money and shopping experience, to give a clear indication of why we have reached the overall scores for each retailer.
Although it is important to remember this feature is a snapshot of one day in one shopping centre, the series does highlight what retailers are doing to stand out in the bricks-and-mortar environment.
It is no secret that the high street is in flux, and retailers are grappling with the best strategy to build and maintain a successful multichannel approach. Just this week, the British Retail Consortium-KPMG sales monitor showed that in-store sales of non-food items in the three months to 31 March fell by 4% on a like-for-like basis year on year.
Several factors have contributed to this – not least the continued cold weather – but it means that retailers are having to work harder than ever on their store proposition.
Enticing customers into shops with imaginative window displays and providing them with a clear customer journey through the store once they are inside seems like an obvious task, but its importance has not dwindled – and it still doesn’t always happen.
Product must be on brand, and of the expected quality and price (depending on the target customer market), and have a clear point of difference. The retailers that really stood out were those that provided excellent customer service on top of a great offer. Simple in-store technologies – such as iPads and the offer of home delivery if an item is not available – are services customers expect all retailers to offer, and those that don’t could be missing an engagement trick.
Stores must provide an experience – whether in terms of convenience, interaction or added incentive – as they fight to stand out in an increasingly competitive crowd. It is only going to get easier and faster to buy online – retailers need to get creative, and provide a reason for customers to step away from their screens and head into stores.