This month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) released a report showing high street footfall is the lowest it has been in six years, with May 2019 demonstrating the steepest decline on record for both online and offline sales.
The stats are undeniable, the retail sector is changing rapidly, but what does the future look like for the high street, and how can retailers adapt their offering to attract more sales? Here’s what some brands are doing to shape the future of retail.
Adapting retail spaces
Amazon has officially taken to the high street with its recent opening UK-wide pop-up-shops, Clicks and Mortar. A joint venture between Enterprise Nation and Amazon, the pop-ups aim to give independent businesses a temporary, physical space to sell to customers in-person.
As the UK witnesses more than 200,000 shops closures in the past nine years, this is one of the many ways in which companies are coming up with new, innovative ways of repurposing surplus retail space.
Another way in which high street retailers are adapting to the changing climate is by offering unique, in-store experiences that can’t be recreated online.
One of the companies at the forefront of this experiential model is Primark, who have completely reinvented their shops into department-style stores. Primark’s recently-opened flagship store in Birmingham offers five-storeys of clothes, accessories and homeware as well as Disney and Harry Potter mini-stores, brow and nail bars, barbers and more.
Additionally, Primark’s Manchester store has introduced a fully-functioning replica of the F.R.I.E.N.D.S Central Perk coffee shop, offering visitors a unique photo opportunity that saw a queue of revellers at its opening.
E-commerce and AI
As retailers fight to keep their space on the high street, e-commerce is upping its game by introducing new technologies to give shoppers a slicker online buying experience.
ASOS recently introduced its first augmented reality (AR) experience with its virtual catwalk. Customers can point their device at a flat surface, click the “AR” button on the product page, and models will appear “in front of them” wearing the product.
Amazon has also announced the launch of its photo search function, allowing customers to snap a photo of an existing piece of clothing and upload it to Amazon, where the e-commerce giant will use artificial intelligence (AI) to find an exact or close match that is for sale on the site. Already dubbed the ‘Shazam of fashion’, this new functionality will save consumers crucial time by doing all the hard work for them and speeding up the path to purchase.
One thing is for certain, these retailers have a deep understanding of their customers and what they’re looking for. Crucially, they all focus on a seamless experience for customers and invest in technology in the supply chain as they recognise it provides a competitive advantage.
Our belief is that the ‘winners’ will be those who come up with customer-focused ideas built on a robust supply chain.