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  • 21 Sep

The changing face of out of town retail

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The increasing importance of the store in the omnichannel retail world has taken centre stage in the past few weeks. Recent research has revealed that 73% of EU retailers expect the store to become more strategically important by 2020, a statistic that includes every type of store: flagship, city centre, market town, shopping centre, and out of town retail parks.

“Out of town” doesn’t mean “out of mind” for big retailers. With the dawn of omnichannel retailing came a crucial need for retailers to re-evaluate the role of the store in the overall customer experience, with each store needing to play its part in emanating the brand.

Over the years, out of town retail parks had received a bad image – “big box” units, “retail sheds”, nothing compared to their jazzy city centre counterparts, or websites, for that matter. Now, market leading retailers are giving more careful consideration to architecture and design, and use of internal space, to create a bold, attractive and interesting place to shop and spend leisure time.

Next recently featured in Retail Week for its Longwater Retail Park store in Norwich; a prime example of a store re-writing the usual rules of edge-of-town retail architecture with a clever and intricate use of space that belies the vast blueprint. The store is also fitted out with a Costa Coffee, a good example of current retailer-hospitality collaborations which provide complimentary offers for the overall benefit of the customer experience.

out of town retail

out of town retail

Digging a bit deeper, and considering the technology that underpins the store, what’s interesting to analyse are the subtle, but crucial, differences between city stores and retail parks. How does the space work, how is in-store tech used, how does the store operate in the supply chain? (i.e. is it a critical ship-from-store unit?; is click-and-collect a big operation?)

Consumers have different demands of stores in different locations, meaning stores require different attributes in order to maintain a high retail conversion rate. A city centre store might be more inundated with click-and-collect orders in the week, for the working demographic that would rather pick up their order on their lunch break. Alternatively, a retail park might see more activity like this at a weekend, when trips out are planned to enjoy a leisurely shopping experience visiting different brands. The use of in-store tech (such as tablets to browse the web and make orders) might also command a different use in different locations – in busier stores where staff might not be as readily available, customers might prefer the convenience of ordering in-store themselves.

These nuances are considerations that retailers must bear in mind when differentiating the store experience. As much as we have blogged about making the store a crucial channel in the customer journey, further consideration should be given to different types of store and what makes them successful.

If you’re considering a transformation of your out of town retail store portfolio, or any part of your store estate, our project-focussed retail IT support can help. We are providing numerous retailers with the expert management of store estate development. All opening activities are coordinated and carried out, from hardware and software roll-outs, to providing communications infrastructure in store. The experience and background of our project specialists ensures processes are managed effectively, to enable you to focus on your core retail business practices.

Over the last year alone, we have managed store opening and relocations for major brands such as Coast, Oasis, Warehouse, Karen Millen, and Mint Velvet across the UK and in international locations as diverse as France, Sweden, Denmark and the USA. If you’d like more information about any of these projects, please click here.

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