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Retailer Insight: Andrew Jennings on how to remain relevant

Retail has never been this fast and it will never be this slow again, writes Andrew Jennings, senior retail executive, author of Almost Is Not Good Enough and former boss of House of Fraser, Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods.

High streets and city centres across the country are under huge pressure, and the rapid transformation of fashion retail is speeding up. JD Sports Fashion and Boohoo Group continue to outstrip their rivals with enviable growth, but others are struggling to reinvent themselves to meet the demands of the modern consumer and maintain a point of difference – as we’ve seen with Arcadia Group and Debenhams.

It is no longer enough to simply set up shop and serve customers. Today’s shoppers expect an omnichannel approach and are frustrated if obstacles get in the way of making a purchase, taking their money elsewhere. The internet has turned consumers into all-knowing, all-powerful “super-beings”, and they are increasingly demanding convenience, transparency and value for money across the whole shopping journey.

So what should retailers do to remain relevant? Here are the four essential lessons.

Selfridges cinema

Take experience to new heights

Consumers are embracing experiential shopping more than ever before, and they are no longer satisfied with bog-standard shops. They have become accustomed to exciting in-store features, such as cafes, photobooths and even skate bowls, which have rapidly become the norm – pushing more retailers to invest in experience, and diversify their offer beyond clothing. For example, Primark’s recently opened Birmingham flagship has a Disney cafe, blow-dry bar and barbers. Next month, Selfridges will be the first department store in the world to install a permanent cinema, at its Oxford Street flagship.

Innovate with excellence

Premium London-based independent Wolf & Badger operates a great initiative that focuses on supporting brands to help them grow, develop and thrive. To be stocked in its shops and online, brands must go through an application process before they are accepted as a Wolf & Badger member.

Wolf and badger coal drops yard shane benson

This ensures that its offering is always fresh and on-trend, and that consumers have access to a whole array of big, small, classic and quirky brands in one place. Its in-store community space also allows customers to sit back and enjoy the experience, therefore encouraging them to stay – and shop – for longer.

Galvin tullamore

Hire talented people

People make or break companies, and good shop floor staff can go a long way in helping to create a memorable shopping experience. This can boost customer loyalty, and encourage word-of-mouth recommendations (both on and offline). Menswear independent Galvin Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland (right), is a prime example. [The winner of 2019’s Drapers Independents Award for Best Customer Experience] has a fantastic reputation for top-notch service, attracting customers from far and wide.

Unhelpful staff, on the other hand, can damage a brand’s reputation and risk bad feedback on social media.

Never stay still

Change is imperative if brands and retailers want to be relevant. Albert Einstein talked about doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. There are so many clothing companies that offer the same thing that customers can, and will, find somewhere else to shop if you’re not keeping up with the times – in terms of both your offering and shopping experience.

Joules autumn 19 (4)

Joules autumn 19

Several traditionally wholesale brands, such as Joules, Seasalt, Canada Goose and Dr Martens, have embraced direct-to-consumer retail, whilst other brands explore the benefits of selling via another party’s online marketplace.

Successful retailers of the future will be those that adapt to stay relevant in the day and age that they are operating in.

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