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Retail’s IT crowd arrives in Stratford

Caroline Nodder

Being the first to successfully tap into new consumer behaviour is like finding a golden ticket.

Being the first to successfully tap into new consumer behaviour is like finding a golden ticket. Just as the invention of Facebook launched humankind into the social networking era, so fashion retail is currently competing to be the first to successfully integrate technology with the physical shopping experience.

The opening of Westfield Stratford City in east London next week marks a significant milestone in that battle, with retailers pulling out all the stops to make their stores the most advanced, the best equipped and the most integrated with what they are already doing online.

When Drapers visited the as-yet-unfinished Westfield Stratford site a few weeks ago, the impenetrable hoardings which enclosed most of the stores paid tribute to the competitive nature of much of what was going on behind them. Retailers were cagey about what they were installing and didn’t want to be copied or upstaged by their neighbours. 

As we near launch it has become clear that much of what has been going on behind the scenes showcases the ideas, technology and concepts that will lead fashion retail forward. Everything from ‘augmented reality walls’, to photographic mirrors, to mobile payment devices that may see the end of the traditional queue at the tills, have been introduced. It will be fascinating to see what captures the public’s imagination and cascades down onto the high street and what falls by the wayside.

One thing’s for sure, keeping your store at the cutting edge will be harder than ever, since technology advances almost daily and shoppers are fickle when it comes to the next big thing. Investment in store upkeep will probably be more burdensome for retailers too as technology can of course let you down, and broken screens, faulty terminals or malfunctioning video feeds will send shoppers elsewhere almost as quickly as their bad experience is broadcast on Twitter. 

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