Is your retail Iconic?

Retail is changing and it’s largely having a struggle. The age-old problems are there – theft, seasonality, fad and the disposal income available in the economy. Trouble is – there are some more now – and they are in many ways even greater.

Technology has pushed much of retail online. More and more ‘cyber outlets’ spring up every year – with products and services unthinkable a few years ago. Software becomes ever more sophisticated at being able to provide warm feelings in the pre-selling phase to clients than ever before.

The number of vacant shops in precincts and malls up and down the British Isles bears testament to the struggle. However, some are thriving. Why is that? Perhaps – they are lucky – have product and services that are a la mode? Maybe. Maybe not? Perhaps they have constructed space that is iconic. Different. Special. Space that online simply can’t better.

Apple stores have this effect – all of the wooden benches in an Apple store are harvested from a particular type of wood – at a certain time of year – so it looks as consistent as possible.

They offer services that mainstream PC retailers never bothered with (training & product showcasing regularly in store, free wireless networking, help, someone who actually remembers your purchase – I have to confess I was shocked by that one)!

Apple hasn’t cracked everything though.
Their Paris store was raided late last year and a record product haul was taken. It was a deeply distressing experience for the staff – so they may in future insist on online fulfillment perhaps? You look at many other stores – and even though there is nothing whatsoever ‘wrong’ with them – they just don’t sparkle. There is no resonance and connection with the shopper. Everything about the experience is ‘expected’.

Here’s another dimension. Retail may eventually be there purely for you to touch, sense, feel the product – meet representatives of the company. Decide if the whole thing just ‘smells’ right to you. Fulfillment of orders may be after your visit – with spot-on logistics, giving guaranteed next-day delivery etc. You may just want the experience of the product. The senses become aroused around what it promises to deliver.

So – if these shops become a kind of experience mortgaged against the sale of a product – the promise had better be good hadn’t it? How can you enable this?

Here are some considerations for cultivating and tuning a more aspirational environment in retail:

  • Develop a plain ‘white canvas’ approach to the unit itself.
  • Consider relevant ‘seasonal change’ with plants, sound and imagery in the retail space overlaying the simple canvas.
  • Branding can be built into every part of the display – so that it all faces the correct way.
  • Keep variety in the customer’s eye – ‘new’ has always been attractive to footfall in store.
  • Do you have fresh oxygen generating, toxin and odour busting greenery in the toilets? I’m serious – a place is NEVER better than it’s toilets!
  • If you use greenery in and outside the shop – it does build you brand credibility and kudos with local authorities and town planners. Something to think about – when applying for expansion or bidding for that second lot?
  • CO2 reduction legislation is strongly rumoured to be coming into force. You could put your retail business ahead of the curve.
  • Much of the air-conditioned hot air in shops would benefit from a little moisture. Enough greenery in store – may even lower your heating and cooling costs. A big consideration in the times of high energy bills.

If this has inspired you more – be aware we’ve been busy in some forward-thinking shops recently. The tide is turning – and nothing in any market ever stands still for long – especially in retail. Somebody will – right now – be inventing the next IKEA, Body-Shop, and Selfridges. The time hasn’t been as good in years for ‘boutique’ brands. People are looking for something different in their high streets and malls that aren’t just the ‘usual suspects’.

Will it be you?

Richard J. Francis
Environmental Tuner

Richard has worked in industry, commerce and technology for over twenty years – and has learned the difference between good and bad working environments. He also has a lifetime interest in horticulture and pioneering plants into places. He specialises in producing Sensescapes, which integrate plant walls, soundscapes, and imagery that reflect the purpose of an environment and improve the results generated out of it.

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