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EDITORIAL Dunelm, Ted Baker, schuh: how hybrid retailing is set to get personal?

Everyone wants something different from retail

Everyone wants something different from retail

Embracing digital is key to success and to growth and this week we see a range of retailers tapping into this with great success – But does it herald a shift to the ultimate in personalisation?

Dunelm, for instance, has seen a 45% growth in sales over the past year, helped along by a staggering 115% growth in digital sales. The retailer is now not only a major leader in the UK homeware sector, but an exemplar of how the new physical-digital mix is reshaping the industry.

Ted Baker is also rethinking its approach to hybrid sales, teaming up with Secret Sales to use the marketplace to effectively create and always on digital outlet store for excess stock.

Schuh, meanwhile, is leveraging the power of mobile gaming and AR to encourage shoppers to be online, but out in the real world, hunting for sneakers and hopefully going in store to look at other items while they are out and about.

These three retailers , like many others, understand that the future is now firmly hybrid. Across August two separate studies found that online sales were slowing while overall spend on cards was growing – largely in-store.

It doesn’t mean that online is over, what is happening is that consumers are now levelling out at how they want to shop going forward. Stores are open, restrictions are lifted (for now!), so what we are now experiencing is what modern retail looks like: a chimera of digital and physical that is amorphous and hard to pin down.

For example, further research by tech provider Ve Global suggests that UK shoppers are increasingly finding it hard to buy what they want online without guidance and expert in-store advice – with clothing, groceries and cars revealed as the most challenging products to purchase online.

Shoppers certainly like the convenience of online, but also miss the tailored in-store experience, help from staff and being able to look and feel the products. Again, though, this is not a catch all trend: it depends on what is being bought and the age of the buyer, the research finds.

Half (52%) of 25-34 year olds and 47% of 18-24 year olds wanting to browse or research products in-store before going online to make their purchase. Younger shoppers were also most likely to shop online more than in-store even once the pandemic is over, with 53% of 18-24 year olds and 51% of 25-34 year olds saying that was the case. 

The age gap is more apparent for older shoppers when it comes to buying clothes online. A third (30%) of consumers said they started buying clothing, shoes and accessories online in the last 12 months. However, almost half (47%) of 45-54 year olds and (46%) 66-74 year olds said they found these items difficult to buy online compared to in-store. Top reasons included not being able to try items on (71%), touch and feel products (67%), gauge the size of products (62%), and difficulty browsing products (23%).

These are not profound changes, but they do show one clear thing: to accommodate today’s shoppers there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; there isn’t even a do this for these shoppers and that for the rest. Instead, we may have reached the ultimate in personalisation: the shopping journey itself having to be tailored to the individual. And that’s a real challenge.

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