Rachael Taylor on the virtues of creating an innovative retail space.
High street retail can no longer compete with online for price or choice, but there is something stores can offer that the web cannot – a real life community experience. Rachael Taylor distils the virtues of creating stores that shoppers want to spend time in.
"Experience, in the truest sense of the word, is something which touches people on a deeper human level. Retail theatre when done well is surprising, challenging, uplifting, energising, even mesmerising. Great brands, retailers or not, have realised that a three dimensional brand experience is by far the best way to engage with customers and build loyalty. Being and buying. A place I feel so happy to be that it’s a given I’ll buy something. Too many retailers start with the product and build outwards. Too few start with the customer experience and design the product to fit into it.”
These are words taken from Mary Portas’s recent review of the high street, and whether or not you agree with her findings in the controversial report, she hits the nail on the head with this extract on store design that talks of creating an experience for customers, not a chore.
Online shopping has been steadily stealing market share from traditional high street retailers, and it’s no secret why: online shopping offers consumers convenience, less stress, a wider selection at their finger tips than any giant mall ever could and, most importantly, the most competitive prices.
This Christmas just past it was estimated by financial advisor Deloitte that online would steal £9 billion of non-food retail sales over the festive period. “The digital revolution has created a new path to purchase for consumers,” surmises Deloitte head of multichannel Colin Jeffrey.
Retail is tough in any sector right now, and jewellery as a discretionary purchase is no different, but instead of admitting defeat it is time for jewellers to ask a very important question: what can I offer my shoppers that an online store cannot? The answer is an experience. Make a trip to your store an enjoyable, social experience rather than a purchase-making necessity.
Howard Saunders of retail consultancy Echochamber says that great store design can be very simply boiled down to a single factor: connecting emotionally with the customer.
“My number one lesson to retailers would be – we don’t need your stuff,” says Saunders. “But retail is not about needing stuff. If you need stuff you can get it on the internet. It’s about creating must haves sold from must do spaces. Take Selfridges as an example – it’s full of stuff you don’t need but feel that you must have.”
Selfridges’ flagship store on London’s Oxford Street is an imposingly large building, and simply marvelling at this giant shop is often the core reason for shoppers’ visits.
This method of enrapturing a customer base by creating the biggest and boldest store in your area is one that many major retailers have employed, starting with Nike’s Niketown store on London’s Oxford Street 20 years ago.
“Nike taught us that by building expensive, awe-inspiring retail theme parks with a striking visual language and a confidence never before seen on a shopping street, it could elevate itself way above the competition,” says Saunders.
The jewellery retail sector has experienced this in recent years. Despite the small scale of the product sold, many retailers are branching out with larger stores and additional floorspace. This month’s guest editors ROX have invested in quadrupling the size of the chain’s flagship store and neighbour Laings of Glasgow has similarly just completed a refit that vastly increases the size of its shop. Elsewhere T. H. Baker opened its largest store to date in Telford and Prestons of Bolton refurbished a floor of its store giving it over entirely to a Pandora shop-in-shop, offering shoppers a dedicated brand experience.
For retailers that have space available to them, or the funds to buy up space around their existing store, being the biggest and best is a quickfire way to attract some attention, but if not, being creative with a small space can have equally powerful results. “Today’s smart retailers battle it out on imagination,” says Saunders.
Imagination is something that he believes is often lacking in the jewellery sector. “Jewellers often play it very safe with old-fashioned window displays and hotel-style carpets,” he comments.
Echochamber is working with jeweller Drakes in Portsmouth. The current storefit is very traditional, with a full glass front filled with window displays flanked with a sales counter, part of which is a Pandora shop-in-shop unit, interior walls full of glass cabinets and a central island sales counter. “The brief is simply to break the mould,” says Saunders of his consultancy work with the retailer.
Briggs Hillier is a retail design agency that has worked on many major projects in the UK and internationally for the likes of Harrods, Nike and Kookai, as well as fashion jewellery retailer Tatto Tatti in Saudi Arabia. Its creative director Adrian Briggs also believes that jewellers are behind other sectors when it comes to creating that exciting, engaging retail experience.
“Traditional jewellers are often falling behind customer expectations from a credible high street store – many do not embrace or consider an engaging customer experience,” he says. “In many instances jewellers are looking increasingly old fashioned on the high street and are not appealing to younger customers – many of these retailers are losing out on market share by not embracing new and younger customers.”
A traditional jewellers can be an intimidating prospect for many younger shoppers, but it is this generation that has the one of the highest levels of disposable income. Some jewellers have started to cotton on to this and have been working to attract this demographic.
Aurum-owned Goldsmiths is one. It has developed a new concept targeting younger shoppers called Goldsmiths Boutique. The first of these opened at Westfield Stratford in London and was fitted with a high-tech area complete with iPads for customers to use and vending machines selling its lower-priced jewellery and watches.
But embracing new customers is not necessarily about cutting-edge technology and gimmicks, according to Bain, it is about making stores a place that shoppers want to spend time in. “Jewellers need to take more cues from fashion environments – this isn’t a case of putting an iPad in the corner or a digital screen behind the cashdesk, it’s about looking at the complete customer experience and building a strong loyalty to the brand, to keep customers coming back,” he says. “Embracing shopper psychology and behaviour is also deeply rooted in all of our work.”
One method that some jewellers are embracing is to create social spaces that shoppers can relax in. Prestons of Bolton, ROX and Fraser Hart have all introduced bars to their stores as a way to tempt shoppers to spend more time in store exploring the products than they would by simply looking at a few cabinets and exiting.
Most jewellers have always kept some champagne cooling in the back office for when a major purchase, like an engagement ring, is made, but these permanent bars, often attended by bar staff as opposed to retail staff, are new to the sector.
“We realised that unlike stores in the US and Europe, British jewellery stores aren’t always very browseable, so we looked at how our industry worked and came up with the idea of the Diamond Bar where we can offer customers a glass of champagne, tea or coffee while they browse our diamond collections,” says Fraser Hart regional manager Jason Fitzgerald. “Traditionally we have had our diamond jewellery in the window with consultation tables inside, so if people see something in the window that they like they can come in and ask to see it.”
Fraser Hart is trialling three bars at its stores in Lakeside, Swansea and Newbury. The bars have been positioned in such a way that they can be seen from outside the store, to tempt more potential customers to stop in for a drink and a browse. The black frosted bar has been lit with specialist lighting system DiaLumen, which showcases jewellery in different warmths of white light and also features oscillating light fittings, creating a look of continual sparkle from the diamonds by replicating the movement of a diamond on the finger, wrist or neck that can be seen from 20ft away.
Saunders believes this is just the type of tactic that will attract shoppers into jewellery stores. “The high street should be about community and drinking coffee and watching the world go by – feeling like you are connected to the world,” he says. “Sitting in a pod at home [online shopping] delivers none of that.”
A feeling of community is a powerful tool for retailers to take hold of. By creating special events that draw the community in, it gives shoppers a reason to visit the store rather than surf the web.
Saunders points to the example of big brands Apple and Diesel, both of which have successfully mastered the concept of creating must-have products.
“For the Diesel Dirty 30 promotion [during which Diesel sells jeans at £30] the people queuing outside the store for three hours don’t know what the jeans will look like, and besides, everyone of those people is already wearing a pair of jeans,” he says. “It is the same with Apple – look at the queues for the iPad. Nobody knows what it’s for, but they are all queuing up to spend £500 on it.”
Another trick that Saunders believes jewellery retailers can learn from big brands is to scale down window displays. “Jewellers are stuck in a rut,” he says. “Everyone is doing the same two-tier windows full of product. There is no logic to it. Look at an Apple store and they will have one laptop or one iPod – the must-have products.”
Jewellery windows stuffed full of products can desensitise shoppers who are casually browsing. They can also prevent contact between store staff and potential buyers, as the shoppers can see everything out on display without ever having to enter the store.
By creating feature windows showing a limited amount of hero products in a creative way, akin to department or fashion stores, retailers can direct consumers’ attentions and tell them what they want. It will also entice shoppers looking for something outside the norm, as the majority of competitors will stick to the traditional window scheme.
Jewellery retailers who take the concept of creating an enjoyable experience for shoppers will have a licence to “print money”, according to Saunders. For high street retail is no longer about product, it is about lifestyle.
After all, one of the high street’s most successful businesses has made a fortune on selling time, says Saunders. “Starbucks sells us time, not coffee, we have coffee at home,” he laughs. “And they do it for £5 per 20 minutes.”
Creating a store that will slow shoppers down, encourage them to spend time and to speak to real live store staff is the key to taking on online retail. Forget pricing, forget stock levels. Curate your offer, tell shoppers what they want and let them have a great time with friends in your store while you do.
As Portas says in her report: “High streets must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again. They need to be spaces and places that people want to be in. High streets of the future must be a hub of the community that local people are proud of and want to protect.” Here, here.
Howard Saunders Top Tip
“If you find yourself in a rut, stop and ask yourself what Paul Smith or Selfridges or even Primark would do if they were left in charge of your store for a week. The chances are this will get the ideas flowing.”
Briggs Hillier’s Tips for Jewellery Store Design
– A key challenge is developing display equipment to ensure the product shines and is not dominated by the display equipment.
– Building an aspirational lifestyle around the product is essential to draw attention to the product when walking past the store or upon entrance.
– As it is not always possible to have space between individual products, the challenge is to enable shoppers to focus on small pieces without being lost in a sea of product.
– Lighting is a key consideration from the beginning and needs to be an integral element to the design
This article is taken from the January issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online via our digital edition, click here.