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What will halt the continuing decline and closure of retail stores?

by Will Corry on March 6, 2012 in Ecommerce, featured item, Retail, Small Business

The great British high street is crying out for help.

The current trend of consumer spend away from “mid market brands” towards either premium/luxury or value, has exacerbated store decline.

Whilst the stores are still trying to provide the premium customer experience. Now it’s plain that a
brand cannot try to be all things to all people and many brands are clearly
falling down the middle.

Among the high profile retail collapses of 2011 were Jane Norman
and Habitat. Habitat alone went from owning 30 or 40 shops in the UK down to
just three. Here are some of the other brands that have gone bust, as well as
those struggling to hold on to their place in the market. Oddbins, T J
Hughes, Thomas Cook, Borders, Pumpkin Patch, Barratts, Past Times, Shoon Ltd, and HMV.

One up to date example of this consumer spend drop is Thornton’s.
No one can fail to be saddened when they read of the continuing decline and
closure of Thornton’s stores
writes Amanda Yeates of Gamble and Yeates in The Retail Bulletin.

Shesays “Not surprisingly Thornton’s has said that they expect its’ commercial
arm to outstrip store sales in 3 years time. They have also opened a new concept
store in Birmingham and announced a major new shop fit for 75 stores, but is
this too little too late
?”

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Amanda sums up with “One suggestion is that Thornton’s
develop a more luxurious sub brand with clever marketing (and a new name) which
can only be found in their new concept stores”

Mid market brands decline

Another trend to emerge is that the impact of the decline of the
high street has been felt more keenly by retailers who own multiple shops.
Retailers with more than six shops closed more stores than they opened last
year. However shops at the low-budget end of the scale are doing well, with
pound stores, charity shops and supermarkets all seeing store numbers increase.

A positive suggestion came from Mike Jervis of
PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He believes that the way to survive in tougher
times is to be creative with the retail space available: “Be realistic
about how you use space – use it as a showroom, or for demonstration of
services and products or a click and collect service. They can put retail
theatre into their shops.”

Clever multi-channel strategies

In a Guardian article Sarah Butler writes… Big department stores like Marks
& Spencer, John LewisHouse of Fraser and
Debenhams are fighting back against online competition with clever
multi-channel strategies. New services are merging the physical and virtual
shopping experience such as “click and collect”, where shoppers can
order online and pick up in a store of their choice and “quick
response” (QR) labels which, if scanned with a smartphone, can take
shoppers straight to a mobile online store to get information or make a
purchase.

Some stores, such as Apple and House of Fraser, are
experimenting with giving staff mobile internet devices such as iPads so that
they are better able to answer queries from shoppers who now have access to a
wealth of information via their mobile phone.

How are the premium/luxury brands shaping up?

Chanel has announced its plans to open a mammoth flagship
London store with a vast array of luxury brands set to follow in its footsteps
with Paris-style “maisons”.

With London Fashion Week taking place recently, renowned labels
such as Burberry, Belstaff and Stella Mcartney are adding the final touches
to their colossal stores due to open later this year. Chanel have received
planning consent for a 20,000 sq ft three-storey shop, offices and new façade
on London’s prestigious New Bond St, allowing it to show all collections under
one roof. In similar style to the French fashion houses that trade with
showrooms, shop and offices in one place, London is creating its own version of
the townhouse boutique.

London is in the forefront this year because of events central
to the UK such as the Olympics and The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which
has attracted brands wanting to monopolise on the influx of wealthy
visitors.Burberry has recently doubled the size of its Brompton Rd store and
will open its largest store to date on Regent Street in the next few months.
Burberry’s CFO, Stacey Cartwright, said: “We are focusing on 26 cities
globally. London is particularly exciting this year. Regent Street will open by
the Olympics and our show will take place here for the third year in a
row.”

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