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House of Fraser reimagines the store

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House of Fraser has reimagined the store for multichannel shoppers. It says its new 1,500 sq ft House of shop is the first to offer purely a Buy & Collect service. The new format, merchandise-free, store opens today in Aberdeen’s Union Square.

Robin Terrell, House of Fraser’s executive director of multichannel said: “Aberdeen is a thriving city and we’re extremely excited to be returning there with our first House of store. This is an entirely new concept and the launch is a pivotal moment in the development of our multichannel business, which has seen online sales increase by 107% in the first half of the year.”

Instead of stocking goods that shoppers can take away with them, the emphasis at House of is on personal customer service. Customers can sip drinks from a free coffee bar in comfortable seating areas while browsing through House of Fraser’s online product line through iPads, computers and interactive screens. Goods ordered from the more than 1,000 brands it stocks can then be delivered the next day to either the customer’s home or to the store for collection.

Fitting rooms are provided for customers to try on items, while virtual personal shopping is also available in areas such as wedding lists and beauty testers.

House of Fraser online brands include its own Biba brand and, exclusively, the new Mary Portas label. Others include Polo Ralph Lauren, Chanel, and MAC.

Lawrence Hutchings, UK retail managing director of Hammerson UK, which runs the Union Square development, said: “To have secured the first pure buy and collect concept store in the UK is not just important for the centre – it also has the potential to shake up the retail sector.

“Shopping is no longer a linear process and the majority of purchases are now informed by more than one channel as consumers increasingly spend more time online and increasingly prefer to collect in store, which drives footfall and additional sales for our retailers. Union Square has a strong customer catchment and adding House of Fraser to the retail line up will considerably strengthen our offer.“

More House of stores are now in planning, with the next to open in Liverpool One later this year.

Our view: As a relatively recent entrant to the ecommerce market, House of Fraser has been working hard to catch up with what others are doing. But here, for the first time, it is starting to innovate – coming up with its own, new, idea of what multichannel will be about for its customers. It’s certainly an interesting one and multichannel retailers will be watching closely to see if it works.

It seems a tough sell to get people to go to a shop to do the online browsing they can so much more conveniently do at home, or from their smartphone – or to have a shop where you cannot take any goods home ‘now’.

But no doubt people who are shopping elsewhere in Union Square will at first drop in to see what’s happening and so create initial footfall. And undoubtedly many will find it useful as a collection point for online orders placed from their home or office. Maybe the key attraction will be the free coffee – and maybe shoppers will start to feel that they do ‘need’ this kind of facility after all.

It does look from here, however, like one of those things you definitely didn’t know you wanted – but maybe, like so many of those things, we’ll soon be taking this way of shopping for granted.

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