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What’s the future for brick-and-mortar stores?

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

2018 saw stores closing at an unprecedented rate, with commentators calling the death-knell for high street retail as we know it. Here at BDA London, we think that retail isn’t dead, it’s just evolving.

We believe that brick-and-mortar spaces will continue to be essential to building interaction with consumers, even the much courted millennial shopper. Research from the Market Creative found that 58% of Millennials asked, will visit a physical store at some point in their path to purchase; whether to research a new product, check out the fit, feel or to buy. To survive, retail spaces need to evolve - here are our recommendations.

fashion rail womenswear clothing

Creating Community Hubs

Social media has allowed brands to create an instant sense of community; needs to be translated into the physical retail space, now more than ever.

Apple now refer to their retail spaces as ‘town squares', spaces where customers can congregate and share experiences. They’ve introduced workshop’s, lectures and classes all of which aim to showcase the array of applications within Apple products. A move that has re-invigorated the consumer relationship and increased revenue.

"According to e-Marketer, Ahrendts initiatives helped to boost average sales per square foot by 21% to $5,637"- BOF, 2019

Co-working giant WeWork, opened it’s first store in 2018, and plans to open an additional 500 locations over the next two years. From tech and snacks to apparel, WeMrkt services the existing community with each store curating products for their members. Seamlessly adding retail into workspaces is the future for time poor staff seeking convenience.

Immersive Experience

Retailer’s need to be experimental in their spaces giving the customer a reason to travel to stores and bridging the gap between online and physical space.

MatchesFashion have captured the essence of their digital success at 5 Carlos Place. Housing retail, private shopping and a digital media hub creating podcasts and content for their expanding digital channels. A packed events calendar includes book launches, panel discussions, flower arranging workshops and live music - enticing customers into store.

Showfields, NYC, has taken this concept further claiming to be “the most interesting store in the world” aiming to blend the best of online and offline. Spanning four levels to include a cafe, gallery and retail space hosting new DTC brands. The top floor space curates a schedule of workshops and events brining community feel into the NoHo building.

"The house becomes a place where there's a full experience every second of the say. Everything is built around the lifestyle of the luxury consumer." - Ulric Jerome, CEO Matches

The New Retail Workforce

Future stores not only need to court consumers, but the right workforce. A new kind of retail worker employed by millennial brands such as Warby Parker, Everlane and Glossier move beyond simple sales staff. The staff are the embodiment of the brand, engaged in the brands values and mission, creating a welcoming environment and effortlessly converting to sales.

Sprout Social released a report in 2018 stating that 70% of social marketeers are using employees as influencers. This not only benefits business by reducing marketing budgets, but further cements the employee/employer relationship, increases brand loyalty and creates a naturally authentic engaged and diverse customer base.

As the purpose of retail is continually evolving, retailers must support their customer's needs and understand what is important to them. Our expert team can help you explore how retail can be reconsidered as places of learning, community hubs and heightened experiences.


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