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GUEST COMMENT Could the showroom model ‘save’ the high street?

Does the high street actually need saving?

You don’t have to work in the retail industry to see doomsday headlines on the stage of the British high street plastered across newspapers nation-wide. But does the high street actually need saving?

It cannot be denied that the UK is a retail powerhouse with brands like Topshop, Burberry and Barbour to name but a few creating waves far further than the British Isles.

So when new figures are revealing that planning applications for new shops on our high streets have fallen by over 9%, we must ourselves why? While increasing business rates and the depreciation of the pound compounded by Brexit fears are much to blame for the lack of new shop openings in recent months, retailers still have some answering to do.

After all, we know that the majority of sales in the UK (89%) are still made in brick-and-mortar stores. However, our relationship with shopping as consumers has irrevocably changed. Whereas browsing the latest styles was once restricted to a trip down our local high street, we now have everything and more available at the touch of a button, often deliverable the same day.

All comes down to the experience

Instead of lamenting days gone by before online shopping existed, physical retailers must remember what made shoppers flock to the high street in the first place: a combination of ease but ultimately experience. What made a store exciting for a consumer ten years ago may not have the same power now. However, new concepts are springing up every day.

Social media make-up brand Glossier opened a pop-up store in New York last winter that was described as less of a store and more of an “offline experience” with minimal/no product focus at all. Similarly, tech giant Samsung spent $43 million on an “experiential” popup where the only thing one could purchase was a coffee.

The idea for both experiments is that customers would flock (and they did) as they wanted to spend time in the store, not just cash in and out. This, in theory, would also drive more loyal customers and brand “ambassadors” in a sense who have bought into the feeling and image of a brand versus just a product.

This idea of experiential retail is not new. If we look at the world of food, restaurants and coffee shops, in particular, we can see that this has been in action for years. Arguably no-one has to eat out, but they do because of the experience of doing so. Fashion, tech and all other retailers must follow this line or pay the price.

Location, location, location

We know, however, that investing in a physical store can be a huge investment. So, why not take the risk out of that move? Location insights can be used to recognise where your shoppers are heading on a regular basis and where the most profitable areas are to set up a new physical store. Rather than just guessing where would be a “good fit” – a scary move for newer brands which have more to pay for and ultimately more to lose.

Overall, retailers must look to keep the high street alive by driving shoppers who are browsing online into their physical high street stores and taking a leaf out of the “showroom” book as well as using location targeting is a way to do this.

By reaching customers in the moments that matter through data that allows for relevant and targeted advertising, retailers can drive footfall and ultimately drive sales. Combining this with a targeted store approach, using location data to decide where first to put new stores and then setting those stores apart from any online offering will create the perfect combination for UK retailers looking to set alight the UK high street once again.

Author: Theo Theodorou is managing director, EMEA at GroundTruth

Image credit: Fotolia

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