Spielwarenmesse: The future of retailing: pioneers forging new paths to profitability

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The future of retailing: pioneers forging new paths to profitability

from Reyne Rice

What is the true future of retailing? Some of the industry and the press coverage have been dwelling upon the popularity and growth of online retailing, and the demise of physical retailing space, what many have called the “retail apocalypse.” And with thousands of retail locations shuttered in the USA since 2016, this is a reality - for some. However, there are other experts that are pointing to a counter-trend. 

A future of retailing that envisions physical retail shopping, paired with an insatiable consumer passion for innovation. A vision that focuses on retail spaces embracing tactile and in-person experiences to delight shoppers, and products that are integral to solidifying that sensation of discovery.

There are some positive examples of brick-and-mortar retailers that have provided welcome experiences for consumers and received both encouraging customer support AND money in their cash registers. This is a profitable sign that the brick-and-mortar retail trend focus can be a working model, for retailers who are willing to shake things up.

Listen to your customers

Never say never. Listen to your customer’s requests and meet their needs. The TrendWatching team has reported that Everlane, a prominent online fashion retailer has just opened a flagship retail fashion outlet in New York City, in December 2017. The brand, who originally stated over five years ago that they would NEVER open a retail outlet, has listened to their consumer base, and met their high-touch demands for a store where they could touch and feel the fashions, and a place where they could return merchandise in-store.

This launch store location does combine online shopper profiles, linked to their POS (point-of-sale) in-store retail experience, by requiring their customers to link the two, before leaving the retail location, providing a seamless shopping footprint.

Combine offline and online shopping

Even Amazon, the largest online retailer, has invested in physical retail. Amazon recently purchased the Whole Foods grocery chain, for $13.4 Billion US dollars. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s contrary founder, has placed a stake in the ground for expansion into brick-and mortar retailing, and plans on reaching new consumers, through physical retail stores, combined with online ordering and delivery systems. Click-and-collect retail shopping is not a new trend. Yet if managed correctly, it can be an enhanced benefit to some consumers, especially millennials, who value convenience and time-saving features, yet demand quality goods, and eco-friendly and organic options.

Provide a homey atmosphere

Embrace your authentic atmosphere and make local a prominent feature. Stores that reflect their local community and offer local artists and makers a chance to shine, provide a true compass for both local shoppers and tourists. This unique approach to honoring your differences can provide a fresh face to your retail location, and invite repeat sales.

The Village Toys shop in Incline Village, on the shores of Lake Tahoe, California, offers a nostalgic feel for their customers, with a combination toyshop and ice cream parlor. This approach encourages cross-over sales for the huge Fourth of July visitor crowd swelling the town’s population seven-fold on this popular Holiday as a destination location. And year-round, the owners keep their finger on the pulse, rotating in new merchandise (such as jumping on fidget spinners, early in 2017), combined with classic toys and games.

Create a new retail model

Be the new retail model that makes sense, to consumers and manufacturers. At the recent Digital Kids Summit, held in Austin, Texas, in end of September 2017, a new store concept, B8ta, was the focus of an evening field-trip for conference attendees. The revolutionary retail store boasts new technology and demos for consumers, seeking the latest in tech and gadgetry for kids and adults.

One of the store co-founders of this San-Francisco based chain of 10 locations, Vibhu Norby explained their store concept charges manufacturers for the privilege of being featured in their high-tech, high touch stores. Products are demonstrated by associates, who are NOT pressured to sell the merchandise, but are tasked with showing the product features to the customers who enter the store, based on the customer interests.

This shift in thinking about the consumer experience has raised 19.5 Million US dollars in investments, and challenges how physical retail space can be monetized differently. Recently, B8ta announced that their smart-home-focused B8ta products will be featured in 70 nationwide USA Lowe’s DIY home improvement stores, and that selected Macy’s flagship locations will also feature B8ta in-store boutiques.

Surprise and delight your customers

Retailers who can provide a compelling destination for their customers, and a unique reason for consumers to choose them, over other alternatives, have a chance at surviving the “retail apocalypse” that has plagued many less-than-innovative retail chains. Many started out fresh and different, and then became tired, and less exclusive.

Surprise and delight your customers, be the source of expert recommendations and demonstrations, and your customers will not only become loyal patrons, but they will broadcast your message through word-of-mouth and social media.


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