It may seem counter-intuitive to conclude a Dimension Report on Mobile & Cross-channel by focusing on stores, but there are good reasons for this. However ecommerce develops, there will always be a role for the store, a place where customers can look at and touch items.
As to how that store might look and what its role might be within a retailer’s overall offering, this is far less certain in the years ahead. This is an issue that has been brought into sharp relief recently within the UK, where the costs of high street and even out-of-town stores have been a recurring theme where companies have failed. Even where retailers have been rescued, as with House Of Fraser and HMV, there have been store closures.
In short, stores are expensive to run and, looking across many retailers’ retail estate holdings, some need to be closed – but this is only part of the story. We are in an era when retailers, along with those who run local government, are having to think anew about town planning.
The retail space in many smaller towns in particular is dreary and dull. As the British experience proves, trying to liven up towns with mid-market chain restaurants and coffee shops is not a long-term answer.
It may be that we need to be more radical, that we need to create new kinds of spaces – markets, and even so-called ‘maker-spaces’ where people can gather and work on an ad hoc basis. This sounds idealistic, but we suspect places with these kinds of spaces will attract more footfall. Retailers will follow, but if that means gentrification destroying what made these places interesting, a cycle of decline may set in again.
In contrast, by engaging imaginatively with the issues here, retailers may find clues over how to create new kinds of exciting retail spaces, the kinds of stores that help to facilitate cross-channel retail because people want to visit them.