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Five critical factors in re-inventing retail

Experts from Adidas, Anthropologie, Ben Sherman and independent retailer The Hambledon shared their insights on updating and reviving the in-store experience this morning at the Drapers Fashion Forum.

Cookie-cutter high streets are over

“Boring retail is dead,” said Hannah Mercer, vice-president of retail operations at Adidas. “Stores and high streets should be a chocolate box of ideas of how to shop rather than taking a blanket approach. We have to surprise and delight the consumer.”

Renegotiate your rents

“Rents available now are dramatically lower than what they were. If you’re not talking to your landlords now, you should be,” said Peter Ruis, managing director of international at lifestyle retailer Anthropologie.

“Rents are changing, and if they can be decreased, then retailers should then have the opportunity to invest back into their real estate and what they love. At the moment it’s a catch-22. Rents are so high that people cut costs in other areas.”

Brand discovery is crucial in store

“If we think of the drop-off of footfall, we can use that to aid the brand discovery process. When customers come into the store, they really want to be engaged with,” said Talbot Logan, senior vice-president of brand management at Ben Sherman. You have to make that store experience all about discovery and interaction.

“You can’t build an in-store experience with a sales target in mind. For example, we have flexible space that we can remove from the selling floor and turn into an events space. Having that flexibility is paramount. If an experience aids brand discovery, then it’s a good decision.”

Identity and DNA are an important investment

“Be true to the brand and do it well,” said Ruis. “For example, we have an art room in every store where one person creates every design feature you see in store. We could do it more cheaply but we would lose who we are, if we did that. You have to think about which part of your cost model adds to your DNA, and what is just history and doesn’t matter any more.”

“It’s not always about commercial return – it’s about the longevity of the brand,” added Mercer. “If you start to compromise on that it can be very hard to pull back. It’s an education piece for the whole business to understand that.”

Indie opportunity

“The death of the traditional high street is an opportunity for independent retailers. There has been such dominance of multiple retailers that a genuine independents resurgence might happen,” explained Victoria Suffield, founder of Winchester independent The Hambledon.

“Structural changes would need to happen, for us to thrive – for example, we have no economies of scale, which makes us incredibly top heavy. So economically and structurally something has to change but there is a real opportunity.

“We are the people who genuinely understand what is going on in our towns and can relate to our shoppers.”

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