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Private equity: retailers must adapt stores for digital era

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Retailers must adapt the way their stores function for an era of digital shopping if they are to prosper in a world where customers are buying in a new way.

That was the message from Bob Steelhammer of private equity company Sun Capital Partners, speaking at the Demandware customer conference, Demandware Xchange 2014, in Barcelona.

In a session titled Rightsizing retail growth, Steelhammer, vice president of digital marketing and ecommerce at Sun Capital, told an audience of retailers: “The way people shop and think about shopping is changing. Physical stores remain an important source of information but are being challenged by digital. This is huge and you need to start thinking about it now. It’s almost too late.”

He said retailers and brands now needed to approach digital in a different way, “looking at it from the customer in.” The balance of physical retail space and ecommerce investment required to support the profit and loss account at current levels was changing, and, he said, “the mix must change.”

Outlining future strategies, he said stores would change to become showrooms – with merchandising to the fore. They would become communities with advice and information on offer, finding ways to interact through social media. He also envisaged a future for them as manufacturers, with orders for 3D printed items placed online produced in-store for collection. Finally, as billboards, stores could give over wall and window space to promoting products.

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