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From Toys R Us to Gear4Music: retail must change to meet the needs of the modern customer

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter, we’re considering an interesting contrast in the different approaches that retailers are taking to trading in an age of digital transformation.

This comes at a time when sales are moving online fast, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse. That’s demonstrated in delivery figures out this week from IMRG and MetaPack, showing that online deliveries rose by 20% in January. But it’s also likely to be seen as shoppers turn online to buy during this snowy weather. In the longer term, all the predictions are that more transactions will move online in coming years.

With that context in mind, it’s interesting to consider two different types of retailers that are in the news today. We hear from commentators how Toys R Us and Maplin prospered in an age when providing wide range and specialist knowledge in the store was a real asset. But in age where that range and information are available online, those stores which were once an asset now seem a liability for the two, which both went into administration this week.

We also report today on the fast sales growth reported by Gear4Music, a retailer whose model clearly works in an internet age. It has far fewer and strategically placed outlets, while the bulk of its business takes place online. Currently it’s working for this retailer, which also benefits from its specialist niche. Music shops are disappearing from high streets but the expertise they contained is now most available through online expertise. But retailers of all types will be considering how to shift their focus from a stores-first to an omnichannel model. Indeed, in today’s IRX 2018 preview we hear from Sarah Taylor of Google on why mobile-first is so important.

Brexit is also in focus today with an interview with William Bain of the British Retail Consortium.

Today’s guest comment comes from Danielle Pinnington of Shoppercentric, who considers the emerging savvier shopper.

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