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Retailing occupies a special place in the national psyche.

· Insights

Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly described Britain as ‘a nation of shopkeepers’. Whatever the sentiment at the time, with hindsight it can only be taken as a favourable reference to the success of Britain’s merchants and traders, a success which continues to this very day. And retailing surely does occupy a special place in our national psyche; few news bulletins are complete without reports about the heroes and villains of the high street, those gaining market share, those failing - and which one is about to fire its CEO.

Then there’s endless commentary about the perceived threat of the internet, the decline of once-thriving shopping destinations and the fall and rise of specialist retailers, not to mention price wars between the grocery giants.

Sure, it’s tough out there, but that’s not the whole picture, it can’t be. Because, despite these pressures, some niche retailers - and some not-so-niche are doing rather well. Despite the challenges, and against the odds, they just seem to get it right.

So, the question is, what does ‘getting it right’ mean? Could there be a formula that guarantees a great outcome? Ask ten retail experts what the magic formula is, and you’ll most likely get ten different answers.

This is what prompted us to produce this book. In our view, the most admired retailers are those that create unique shopper experiences - places where consumers can personally engage with products and brands. These organisations are no doubt run by savvy business people; skilled, creative, and customer-focussed. What they have in common is that they embrace change and the need to invest to improve their businesses. They engage with the opportunities presented by the challenge of the traditional retailing and the disruptive effects of innovation and technology. Interacting with their customers across the whole spectrum of channels with the retail experience as the central plank of their brand, a place where the experience can touch the senses. In this brave new world, shopping will become more than ever, a pleasurable leisure activity, co-existing with convenience of digital technology.

There is the growing desire for ‘real’ experiences, and it’s happening where stores are evolving into places where customers engage with products and brands in a way that is far more personal, more exciting, and more involving than ever before.

It’s worth noting that the concept of the ‘shopping experience’ is nothing new. A certain Mr Gordon Selfridge understood the point very well. Way back in 1909, he opened his iconic department store on London’s Oxford Street and it seems likely that the challenges facing today’s retailers would have held few fears for him.

In this book, we’re going to explore some of the ways retailers can achieve similarly desirable results.

We’ve sought the views and knowledge of a cross-section of highly experienced retail professionals, combined them with our own insights and named it ‘Retail Perspectives’, because that is simply what it is; not a definitive answer on how to guarantee success.

 

Our intention, rather, is to capture opinion and viewpoints to stimulate thought, encourage discussion, and share some surprising facts.

 

Just for perspective of course. We hope you enjoy it!

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