Previously, there were a number of established considerations for those wanting to open a retail space. Retailers were encouraged to take on as large a space as their budget might allow, hosting a wide selection of products for customers to choose from. However, as the high street develops alongside e-commerce, preferences like this have changed and the size of a venue is no longer as important as it used to be. In fact, quite a bit has changed in just a few years.
Now, the priority of retail spaces is changing. The product remains important but not as much as it once was. Brand and experience are, instead, taking centre stage. Customers are being drawn into retail spaces not solely for the purpose of purchase but to learn more about a brand and engage with what it can offer, as well as to enjoy stylised areas, with every detail from window displays to screw covers being well-curated.
This is because, with the ability and, often, preference to order products online, retailers are having to rethink the usefulness and demand of a shop space. Initially, it seemed that high street retailers might be losing out to a more efficient and more affordable alternative to shopping. However, it soon became clear that e-commerce and brick and mortar retail could not only exist alongside one another but also bring about mutual benefits.
The expansion of delivery services and online ordering meant that high street retailers didn’t need to offer every product in-store. In fact, customers could browse and experience items on the high street and then have them delivered, meaning that retailers could reallocate shop shelving and display space to alternative needs. This is where experiential shopping comes in.
Experiential retail has become a priority for many high-street retailers and customers are drawn into shop spaces to experience, learn, and interact with products. Nespresso, for example, have begun hosting tasting sessions, while Waterstones have expanded the number of talks and book club events that take place in their stores. Other established retailers, such as Lush, have begun to transform their retail spaces into service spaces too, with the health and beauty store now offering beautification services in various locations.
This is important to recognise because it changes the need of a shop’s location. No longer must a shop space be expansive but practical and in a prime location. Retailers are now shifting away from larger shop spaces and embracing the smaller, more curated high street premises that are able to target well-defined audiences.
The ability to meet service needs should also be considered too. A retailer who is likely to hold pop-up events would do well to have both the indoor space and a shopfront that supports outdoor events too, which can be useful during the summer period.
Preference for smaller spaces is, of course, not entirely entangled in the popularity of experience-focused retail. A significant shift toward more dynamic and local shopping operations is due to its association with lower risk and prioritization of community, two characteristics that became important in the wake of the health crisis and national lockdowns.
These preferences are, however, still changing. It might only be a few more years before new trends begin to develop. As such, the fundamental quality of modern retail is looking to be adaptability.