It wasn’t long ago that there were cries of “the high street is dead” and “stores are no more”, as growth at pureplay etailers far outstripped the rest of fashion retail.
This was compounded by the fact that many traditional retailers were (and still are) tied into long leases on loss-making stores that were the wrong size and/or in the wrong location.
However, a recent spate of openings shows that retailers and brands still see stores as an important part of the mix. As retail becomes increasingly competitive, chief executives have had to think hard about their offer. They have realised that their product and brand can come to life in store in a way that can’t be replicated online. Instead of bowing out of bricks-and-mortar retailing, they are reviewing their entire business proposition to ensure they use multiple channels in an integrated way.
It has been particularly interesting to observe pureplay or predominantly online etailers and brands dip their toes into bricks and mortar – a development none of the high street doom-mongers expected.
This week we took a look inside Boden’s new flagship store. The mostly online and mail order business has spent a long time debating whether to open a flagship – it already has one, smaller store in west London. Founder Johnnie Boden believes now is the right time as part of a wider, multichannel growth strategy.
Similarly, Joe Browns, which operates a similar online/mail order model to Boden, opened its first store earlier last month, calling it the “missing part of the jigsaw”. Last week, womenswear brand Girls On Film opened its first store in Westfield Stratford City, where Missguided made its much-talked-about retail debut last year. Moreover, Matchesfashion, whose online business has blossomed, has kept it stores.
Tough trading conditions can have a silver lining – they force businesses to take stock and innovate. While it is undoubtedly challenging out there, we are seeing a welcome focus on opening exciting new stores that offer great product, excellent customer service, fun experiences and interesting new technologies.