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Weird Fish’s Ben Mercier on the continuing importance of stores for multichannel retailers

Weird Fish's Falmouth shop. Image courtesy of Weird Fish

Stores remain key for Weird Fish – and for other multichannel retailers, says Weird Fish customer director Ben Mercier. 

Despite recent news from the BRC of declines in both store footfall and consumer confidence, the clothing retail brand says its bricks and mortar shops remain at the heart of its business.

“Stores complement our online channel, and vice versa,” says Mercier. “We believe the success of our stores comes down to various elements – strong marketing campaigns, great customer service, prime locations, but above all, customers recognise that our products present great value and high-quality.”

He adds: “What’s more, store location has been key for us. We have a ‘Destination strategy’ in place, where we carefully choose our store locations based on where we know our target customers shop. Location is everything, and just because a store works in one area doesn’t mean it’ll work for another. It’s far better to excel in fewer locations than stretch yourself too thinly.

“Although people do still enjoy a traditional in-store experience, stores also need to keep up with the times. It’s important to have a level of digital investment which doesn’t alienate shoppers but makes shopping in store as easy and appealing as visiting a retailer website. As part of our significant digital investment at Weird Fish, we’ve upgraded all our stores to allow customers to place online orders on site, adding ease to their shopping experience.

“Store investment remains a priority at Weird Fish and we’re looking forward to introducing new locations to our portfolio in the coming year, to build on our success to date.”

His comments come as Weird Fish’s sales run well ahead of pre-pandemic levels. So far in its 2022 financial year – which runs until the end of December – sales are 31% ahead of the same time in 2019. Stores reopened from lockdown in April 2021 and this year, Weird Fish sales grew by 22% between April and June 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, measured on a like-for-like basis that strips out the effect of store openings and closures. The retailer has 17 of its own stores and also sells through 300 stockists and online.

The impact of inflation 

Inflation is taking its toll on consumer sentiment, according to PwC. But Mercier says Weird Fish customers continue to buy because they see its products as being good value. “We survey our customers every year and gain honest feedback on our product ranges and sentiment towards the brand,” says Mercier. “Our latest survey shows that perceptions haven’t changed. One year on ‘value for money’ remains our most popular trait, as voted by nearly half of respondents.”

He adds: “On the whole, customers are being more selective about what they purchase, which has posed issues for many retailers. But it’s clear from our research that their selectiveness comes down to priorities – and quality is high on the list. A product may be slightly pricier than a lower quality item, but it is made to last and if anything, saves money in the long-term.

“Some retailers may believe that heavy discounting is needed to engage customers. While discounting may solve the problem in the short-term, it doesn’t build customer advocacy. That’s why tactical promotions form part of our wider marketing strategy at Weird Fish. We have a dedicated welcome programme which introduces customers to our brand with soft messaging, like local store information for customers within a 40-mile radius. We’ve also committed to freezing our prices for Spring/Summer 2022, to help maintain customer confidence in our brand during the cost of living crisis.”

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