Retail Theatre

The continuing rise of online shopping, more recently through necessity during these unprecedented times, will no doubt add even more pressure onto the struggling high street.
It seems we’ve been saying this for some time but now more than ever, the traditional Bricks and Mortar Retailers must strive to add some Retail Theatre to their stores.

Current physical retailers and online retailers looking to make the move to Bricks and Mortar, now have to rethink the purpose of the Retail Store.

Simply having rows of products is no longer enough, as more and more people of all ages are becoming comfortable to order online and have products delivered to their door step with ease. Instead, stores must compel consumers to visit for more than before and to give them a Shopping Experience.

Here we’re looking at just two examples that Brands who have already been doing this for some time.

Taking the approach that people do not need another store, the Samsung 837 flagship in New York rethinks the purpose of the physical store by creating a ‘technology playground’. Samsung have literally brought theatre by including an auditorium with a huge digital screen that consists of 96 55-inch visual displays for film screenings and special cultural events.

When not specifically required for events, the screen displays selfies taken on nearby cameras. As if this wasn’t enough a VR tunnel and gallery is also on site to display technology-based art installations / immersive experiences. Samsung 837 is not designed to sell anything but instead to create a relevant cultural destination for people to simply spend time trying out the latest technology, absorb the Samsung lifestyle and see that Samsung products understand them.

Amazon have managed the tricky task to bring the consumer focussed ease of their online shopping experience, to the physical environment. Their first Brick-and-Mortar Amazon Go grocery store in Seattle features Amazons own version of retail theatre, ‘Just Walk Out Shopping’ eliminates queues with a futuristic format for checkout free convenience.

“The checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.” The technology automatically detects products, taken or returned allowing the customer to simply walk out when they are done shopping. Producing stores with such developed technology must be an expensive undertaking but Amazon have announced plans for two further stores in Chicago and San Francisco.

This futuristic experience shows a progressive company with creative solutions to current problems and Amazon’s version of convenience shopping acts as a talking point of what can be. For a convenience store to be attracting fascinated tourists shows Amazons global appeal and can only be driving even more customers to the Amazon website.

It begs the question though, is this a physical store or an advertisement for an online retailer?

Retail Moving Forward

We’re glad to see that many of our clients are continuing on an upward trend despite the current climate and difficulties due to the pandemic.

Recent reports for instance show that DFS for one, are among the retailers who aren’t fairing too badly under these difficult circumstances, which points to the success of their online offering.  This isn’t just coincidence or luck; it is because the management of DFS have for some time now been focused on moving forward as a Multi Channel operation. They’ve almost had an edge over more traditional Furniture Groups over the last 12 months due to years of working hard and not relying on their previous successes.

Through John Evans Interior Architecture & Design, we’ve been associated with DFS since its inception and before that for Northern Upholstery who purchased the name and stores.

It has been very interesting seeing the progression during the years, and it is easy to see why they have maintained their number one slot.

Since 2019, we’ve been working on the first phase of a refurbishment program for their stores which will bring the presentation of their furniture up to date and in sync with their online offering.

This is vitally important as shoppers’ habits have changed, for many the internet is the first place they visit when looking to purchase furniture. This provides them with style ideas, price points and importantly the opportunity to decide which Brand to buy from and which stores to visit.

Although online has no doubt been an advantage most recently for retailers like DFS, big ticket items like furniture, it’s inevitable a visit to a store to view the furniture is essential if an expensive mistake is to be avoided. To us, this is why purely online Furniture groups have been opening physical stores too.

This is why we really feel that Retailers with established bricks and mortar, can have an advantage by already having the stores. Unfortunately though, it isn’t always as simple as just having showrooms that are attractive. Retailing now more than ever calls for a joined-up approach.

A good website is essential with an opportunity to buy online if preferred, presented in such a way as to engage with the customer, offer style ideas and give confidence. This also needs to be backed up with the same approach on Social Media.

Once all this has been achieved the in-store experience becomes even more crucial. While all the good work has been done on the internet, this can be so easily undone as soon as the customer walks into a store. It is so vital for the in-store experience to lives up to the online experience and even surpasses it to complete the buying process.

Despite the unprecedented times, the refurbishments have generally continued for DFS into 2021 as they continue to move forward post pandemic.

— John Evans