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How department store design can revive the high street [BLOG]

How department store design can revive the high street [BLOG]

Comments attributed to: Paul Smith, Head of Specification Sales…

Covid-19 has created a record surge in online spending. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of Brits admitted to spending more online during the 2020 spring and summer lockdown, when the UK was in varying levels of lockdowns and restrictions, which added around £5.3bn to UK ecommerce sales . It’s been estimated that consumers spent a total of £141bn online in the last 12 months, up 34.7 per cent from 2019. For the first time ever, this accounted for more than 30 per cent of all retail sales in the UK .

Pre-Covid-19, the high street was already facing harsh challenges. There had been a steep decline in bricks and mortar retail stores over several years, but the difficult trading conditions of the pandemic accelerated this beyond any predictions.

Last year saw several stalwart brands including Debenhams and the Arcadia Group enter administration while, just a few days into 2021, stationery giant Paperchase has announced its closure. Businesses that haven’t quickly adapted to have a ‘clicks and bricks’ model are suffering at the hands of the virus.

However, though around half of shoppers have said they would continue buying online at the same level after the pandemic – with groceries (60%), home and garden products (54%) and hygiene items (51%) top of the list for ecommerce purchased once the Covid-19 pandemic eases – there is still an opportunity for retailers to capitalise on the remaining consumers who plan to get back to visiting physical stores.

Extensive amounts of data available online has meant buyers have benefitted from truly personalised shopping experiences online, but many still want and need to see, feel, try and, in some cases, even smell or taste the items before they buy.

To make this experiential shopping something special, retailers must begin to think about refurbishing or even repurposing their premises, using smart design features to create immersive, memorable spaces, which customers seek out and return to. In short, we must create exciting and physically engaging spaces that online retail simply can’t contend with.

Lighting, for example, can be used to showcase a product’s best features while simultaneously acting as a useful guide to navigate customers around a store enabling the discovery of products they might not otherwise be looking for. As such, lighting makes the shopping experience not only useful and informative, but also sensory, inspirational and productive.

LED furniture lighting systems – such as Loox by Häfele – deliver an easy-to-install option to make retail spaces more expressive and improve signposting. With a wide range of uses across fixture and display applications, Loox can be used to highlight products that are popular amongst consumers or which fall in line with current trends, making it easier for the shopper to locate the items they’re looking for.

Using Loox furniture lighting, you can change and control the colour, warmth and intensity of the light via an easy to use app to coincide with seasons or promotions, meaning retailers can use lighting to help meet their sales priorities.

Loox’s Plug and Play system, with its clear colour coding, makes it simple to assemble and install, removing the need for a specialist electrician, saving time and money, while Häfele’s Lighting Design Service can be utilised to create a customised lighting plan, product list and quote.

One challenge online shopping negates is busy, untidy and cluttered shops. To emulate this in bricks and mortar department stores, retailers should consider smart use of railings, hangers and drawer storage to not only make shops look clean and tidy, but to also showcase either areas of the store or specific products.

Häfele’s Shoptec range features a comprehensive variety of brackets, rails, hinges and carriers designed to enable shopfitters to create clean layouts that make physical shopping a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Covid-19 has impacted the retail economy significantly, with many operators relying on grants and government loans to stay afloat while their doors are closed. As such, there’s a need to be price conscious during any refurbishment project. Anyone working on new store layouts should source services and products that are specifically designed to overcome these challenges, to make the delivery of shop floor designs a much more cost-effective process.

Häfele to Order is a bespoke service, which allows customers to specify products to size, quantity and finish. Rails, panels, plinths and LED furniture lighting can all be cut, packaged and delivered to exact requirements. The service means users only pay for what they need and reduces waste, making the process more sustainable.

As Michael Valdsgaard, Ikea’s former head of digital, recently said: “Customers won’t need to be bribed for an excuse to get out of the house” once lockdown comes to an end, stating that they “will be looking for experiences they couldn’t get in isolation” .

The key is for retailers to use the time available to them now to update and upgrade their stores to ensure they meet this need. By using innovative design and complementary products, retailers will be able to welcome shoppers back to something they didn’t know they were missing, when the time comes.

1. https://www.retailtimes.co.uk/online-shopping-habits-brits-have-adopted-over-lockdown-are-here-to-stay-new-research-shows/
2. https://www.emarketer.com/content/pandemic-pushes-uk-retail-ecommerce-past-30-of-total-retail-sales-2020
3. https://www.essentialretail.com/news/covid-shop-online-post-crisis/
4. https://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2020/04/how-can-retailers-revive-physical-store-sales-after-lockdown/

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