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How retailers are rethinking the role of the store as they reopen from lockdown 3.0

HMV Vault today... Image courtesy of HMV

Some stores look very different as they reopen from lockdown 3.0 today, reflecting a move by retailers to rethink the way they trade in a multichannel context.  Others are celebrating significant anniversaries – and survival against the odds. Multichannel services remain firmly in place as retailers acknowledge the growing importance of ecommerce to their businesses.

The latest figures suggest strong interest from shoppers – across the UK footfall this morning was 218.2% up by 10am today, compared to the same time last week, according to Springboard, with the strongest rises in shopping centres (+339.7%), followed by high streets (232.8%) and retail parks (58.2%). For context, last week, footfall was 9.6% down on the previous week, falling most notably in shopping centres (-10.3%), high streets (-9.6%) and in retail parks (-8.9%). Shops open today in England and Wales, joining those in Scotland which started to open last Monday and will be fully open by April 26. Shops in Northern Ireland are now able to fulfil click and collect orders, while outdoor shops can open from today. The guidance will next be reviewed in Northern Ireland on April 15. 

Springboard says that today, UK visitor numbers are 505.1% up on the same time last year – when shops were closed in lockdown 1.0. Reassuringly, they are only 14.7% down from the same time in 2019 – with visits to retail parks are 12.6% ahead of the 2019 figure. 

That said, there are fewer shops for shoppers to go to. Research from PwC and the Local Data Company has estimated that almost 10,000 chain stores closed in 2020. More have closed during local – significant empty stores include those previously run by the Arcadia Group brands, from Topshop to Topman and Dorothy Perkins, while John Lewis will today start reopening 34 new stores, down from 50 before lockdown 1.0. Branches of Debenhams are reopening with a sale offering up to 70% off – but only to clear sale stock before the brand goes online-only under the new ownership of the Boohoo Group. Not all Debenhams stores are reopening, with 14 of its previous 118 shops already closed for good, including its former flagship on London’s Oxford Street.  

Monsoon opens first of 30 planned new boutique-format stores

Monsoon is unveiling its first store for nine years today. The boutique store on Marylebone High Street is the first of 30 planned boutiques that promise to take the retailer back to its heritage, craft and sustainability roots, featuring installations showing how its products are made, with the use of artisan wood-blocking and weaving techniques. 

The store is designed to showcase the Monsoon brand and products, carrying a “curated collection” of Monsoon’s women’s and children’s clothing as well as highlights from its homewares collection. Its new Artisan Studio collection is made from 100% organic cotton, woodblock printed or hand dyed, while a guest capsule from women’s brand East uses upcycled quilts and offcuts to make sustainable base clothes.

The store will also highlight the work of The Monsoon Accessorize Trust, donating 10% of the first month’s profits to support people in disadvantaged communities in Asia through education, healthcare and projects that generate an income. 

Peter Simon, who founded Monsoon in 1973, says: “We are tremendously excited to open our first new boutique store concept. This has been a difficult year for everyone, but difficult times can inspire creativity, and that has certainly been true for us: this store is a bold new expression of Monsoon, taking us back to our roots and celebrating the joy and colour that is so rich in our heritage. This project has been a bright light for us over the past year and represents all the energy and passion that we put into our product and shows the direction for the brand. We are committed to retail, the experience and joy it can bring, and are really excited to see stores reopen, to welcome our customers back and to introduce them to our new boutique.”    

Monsoon sells online and through 156 stores – including the one that opens today – as well as through retail and online partners. The new store concept comes months after Monsoon Accessorize went into administration in June last year and was bought by founder Peter Simon in a pre-pack deal. 

Homebase brings gardening products to branches of Next

Homebase selling gardening products within branches of Next, in a trial that starts today.

The home and gardens retailer is selling goods in six branches of Next from today – enabling those looking for clothing or homewares at Next to also get gardening advice from in-store staff or by using the SmartPlant app to scan barcodes. 

Damian McGloughlin, chief executive of Homebase, says: “We’re delighted to be joining forces with Next and bringing our garden products and expertise to its stores. It’s all part of our wider commitment to make shopping with us easier and provide even more inspiration and expert advice. We’re a great nation of gardeners, with more and more people enjoying the benefits of gardening and being outside. The launch of these new garden centres means we’re able to offer more gardeners, both experienced and those just starting out, Homebase products in more locations across the country.”

The Next stores are one example of Homebase’s evolving approach to small format stores that it says shows its belief in the future of the British high street. It is also opening a dual-branded Kitchens by Homebase and Bathstore shop, Decorate by Homebase and an everyday essentials store in Walton-on-Thames today. 

Homebase currently sells from 151 shops and 15 standalone Bathstores, while new high street shops, Decorate by Homebase and Kitchens by Homebase are launching around the UK. 

HMV marks its centenary as it reopens all its shops

HMV is marking its 100th year trading as it reopens all 93 of its shops today. The film, music and merchandise business is expecting shoppers will want return to browse its stores in person, despite growing online sales in lockdown.

HMV owner Doug Putman says: “The British high street has had a tough start to 2021, but as the country slowly gets back to normal, we’re confident that shoppers will return to supporting physical retail. For millions of customers, browsing in-store is something that can’t be replaced, and we’ve put measures in place across the estate to ensure that they can take their time discovering our massive range of entertainment and merchandise while social distancing. We’re expecting people to purchase some of the incredible new releases we’ve seen during the latest lockdown.

“This year marks hmv’s 100th birthday, and we’re setting ourselves up to be here for the next 100 years. Over the coming months, customers will start to see exclusive new merchandise and special editions arrive in their local hmv stores.”

Both HMV and Fopp stores will feature Covid-safe multichannel services, including dropping off a list of purchases to collect and ringing to reserve stock for same-day collection – in addition to existing click and collect services. Any returned items will be quarantined for 72 hours before being returned to the shop floor. 

Putnam bought 100 HMV stores out of administration in 2019, betting on shoppers’ appetite for buying music in-store rather than online. 

Presto Music marks its 35th anniversary on reopening

Classical and jazz music specialist Presto Music is reopening its Leamington Spa store today, 35 years on from its founding. 

Presto Music chief executive and owner Chris O’Reilly says ecommerce gave the company its most successful year ever in 2020 – but that bricks and mortar are key to the customer experience – from in-store browsing to concerts. He says: “Browsing‌ ‌through‌ ‌tangible‌ ‌products‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌physical‌ ‌store‌ ‌is‌ ‌definitely‌ ‌a‌ ‌more‌ ‌intimate,‌ ‌tactile‌ ‌experience‌ ‌when‌ ‌compared‌ ‌to‌ ‌swiping‌ ‌across‌ ‌a‌ ‌screen.‌ ‌It’s‌ ‌also‌ ‌a‌ ‌place‌ ‌where‌ ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌converse‌ ‌with‌ ‌like-minded‌ ‌people‌ ‌who‌ ‌share‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌taste‌ ‌as‌ ‌you‌ ‌do.‌ ‌And‌ ‌after‌ ‌a‌ ‌year‌ ‌spent‌ ‌mostly‌ ‌in‌ ‌our‌ ‌own‌ ‌homes,‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌palpable‌ ‌sense‌ ‌of‌ ‌nostalgia‌ ‌for‌ ‌walking‌ ‌around‌ ‌a‌ ‌familiar‌ ‌store‌ ‌you‌ ‌haven’t‌ ‌been‌ ‌to‌ ‌for‌ ‌too‌ ‌long.

“The‌ ‌retail‌ ‌sector‌ ‌would’ve‌ ‌been‌ ‌even‌ ‌more‌ ‌severely‌ ‌impacted‌ ‌without‌ ‌ecommerce‌ ‌last‌ ‌year,‌ ‌but‌ ‌that‌ ‌doesn’t‌ ‌mean‌ ‌we‌ ‌should‌ ‌overlook‌ ‌the‌ ‌vital‌ ‌role‌ ‌that‌ ‌brick-and-mortar‌ ‌still‌ ‌has‌ ‌to‌ ‌play.‌ ‌Not‌ ‌only‌ ‌do‌ ‌physical‌ ‌stores‌ ‌help‌ ‌drive‌ ‌the‌ ‌local‌ ‌economy,‌ ‌they’re‌ ‌also‌ ‌great‌ ‌for‌ ‌bringing‌ ‌together‌ ‌communities.”‌ ‌ ‌

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