As promised, after my rather pessimistic review of some recent retail stories in the last blog, I want to turn to something a little more positive. The stories below that caught my attention are in one way the other side of the restructuring coin that the last blog commented on. Disruptions in food have come in the form of hard discounters, convenience and home shopping. In clothing it’s been in supply chains, styling and home shopping. Technology therefore is a theme as a disrupter, but what about those that sell us the kit?
Two recent openings on Oxford Street have been in the news. I’ve not been to either, but will do on my next foray to the Brexit-denying capital (London- Scotland solidarity, who would have thought it?)
Dixons Carphone opened its flagship store in Oxford Street,combining PC World, Currys and Carphone Warehouse, in late June. It claims to offer new store concepts and features including:
- Digital feature wall, is the biggest screen on Oxford Street with over 20 sqm of LED screens delivering aspirational 4k content reflecting product categories, brands and offers through 4.3 million pixels
- Curated product range, featuring premium 4K televisions, an improved interactive camera display, enabling customers to experience and compare cameras and new Dyson and Nespresso stores-within-a-store
- Greater range of accessories and wearables, with a new Headphone Wall and Smart Watch Wall giving customers a more enjoyable and easier way to choose the right product
- Focus on Services, with the first combined PC World Business and KnowHow consultation space, which is also fitted with charging points for customer convenience
- Dedicated Multiplay offering, serving customers’ connectivity needs, including TV and broadband bundles, connected devices, and on-demand content, all in a dedicated space offering Multiplay expert advice
The claim is that the store will combine ‘convenience, curated products and the connected world in the most innovative store yet, acting as a lab to test new ideas and concepts…we need to promote an exciting, engaging and connected shopping experience’.
A week or so late, Dyson opened its first physical store in the UK – the Dyson Demo – which will allow users to try out the full range of electrical products. Following on from stores in Tokyo, Moscow, Paris and Jakarta (students of international retailing, work that pattern out!), this store stocks 65 Dyson products but is really about science, engineering, design and explanation, as well as testing, demonstrating and using. Yes, you can buy (in store or for home delivery) but it is a flagship store in the broadest sense of the word.
The Dyson Demo encourages people to be hands-on and to think about the products – following on from the founder’s lifelong mission to meld design and performance in new ways of thinking and ‘bringing engineering to life’.
I am curious to see both stores and to see how customers and visitors react to, and in, them. I am not sure, for obvious reasons, whether I will make the Dyson Supersonic salon – my time has passed in that regard, but it sounds engaging, if not a little hair-raising.
Further details and photos on both openings can be found in media reports including The Guardian, Retail Gazette, Retail Week and Design Week. Retail Week also has a nice video of the pre-opening day of the Dyson Demo.
Broadening out, perhaps a couple of further points could be made:
Firstly, despite the doom and gloom and the downturns in many retailers, there are others that are doing pretty well in even these austerity times. There are lessons to be learned here in terms of the product and consumer focus and it is no coincidence that these technology-based examples are following in Apple’s footsteps. We are seeing the closer merging of in store selling and entertainment, perhaps with added information (and that could challenge the nature of retail employment).
Secondly, the focus here on Oxford Street points to the disruptive nature of our retail and consumer change. The flagship nature of these stores, at this iconic (though often rather disappointing) location illustrates the changing retail pattern and the alterations underway in terms of the need for, the locations of, and the use of, retail space. It is also clear that Oxford Street itself is seeking to capture the sense of some of these changes – “first seen on Oxford Street” for example and its own repositioning.What is the balance between flagship(s), other stores, presence in other retailers (shop in shop) and online? We are all still working this out.Retail space requirements are being rethought place by place and company by company.
And in pondering the space need question, I offer a final store opening via a tweet from The Grocer (@TheGrocer): a Tesco Finest wine bar pop-up in Soho.