Summer brings fresh energy and good moods. People want to get back out to visit their favourite cafés and wander round the town. The coronavirus vaccination and incidence rates are making it possible to experience brick-and-mortar retail in person again. For retailers, this means opportunity, challenge and a new sales consciousness.
Some stories in the press in times of COVID-19 gave the impression that brick-and-mortar retail had no future. However, in-person sales between people have been around forever – be it in the form of barter, hawker's tray, department store or specialist boutique. The move to online retail does not need to simply the death of brick-and-mortar retail. Indeed, market day has always provided for amusement, variety and the animation of the town – values that many people hold in esteem once more following the lockdown. In the long run, after all, who wants to live and work in a deserted city? Instead, it's high time for a positive regard and a new self-confidence for brick-and-mortar retail. Innovative entrepreneurial spirit is now in demand just as much as it was at the start of the pandemic! Current customer needs must be recognised and adapted to the current framework conditions. Offline retail is not dead. But it is changing.
Life as an online shopper may be comfortable but it can often be rather lonely too. People who get up off their couches at home and make their way to a specialist shop want more than just to acquire a new product – they want to feel noticed, person to person. They expect a friendly greeting and face-to-face advice. They might like to get additional information for themselves about individual products by QR code but they certainly don't want this to be the only channel. Customers sense intuitively whether they are met with a warm welcome. After all, retail is now – more than ever before – about respecting every visitor as an individual, taking their wishes seriously and showing them that they are valued.
There is no patented recipe for it, but Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo provides one example of individual and customer-oriented retail. The branch in Vlijmen opened a "chit-chat checkout" in 2019 – an additional checkout where you can take the time to have a little natter without creating a long queue that annoys customers who are in a hurry to pay. The Jumbo management recognised that a large portion of the more elderly clientele is lonely and in need of a chat, and this was a solution for that demand.
Shopping should never be a necessary evil but instead something that, through moments of surprise, sparks fun and puts people in a good mood. The retailer's task is to create staging and store ambience that is tailored precisely to the target group and provokes smiles and wonderment through loving attention to detail. Businesses that focus on offering a shopping experience that cannot be reproduced online, or who offer additional services, will also manage to achieve good turnover going forward.
Photos showing the winners of the "Store of the Year" and the "World Retail Awards" deliver inspiration to travel to the ends of the earth and to develop your own creative ideas.
Sustainability and environmental awareness are reflected in store design just as much as in the manufacturing of products. It is a trend that is persuading young customers, above all, to focus on the sharing economy and to hire many things rather than buy them. Indeed, renting something out 10 times over may even bring in more revenue than selling it just once.
The DIY trend has been about for a few years and people's desire to create for themselves continues on undiminished. Retailers like "Horst" (a DIY store in Hamburg Bahrenfeld), Create by Obi, or the Ikea Citystores contribute to the trend and score points through fresh ideas and coherent concepts. Customers will buy more selectively in the future and place more value on convenience and personalisation in the form of more made-to-measure shopping experiences and personalised products.
"What is retail for my customers?" is a question that businesses can only answer for themselves. Sometimes all it takes is little things, like a smile or a creative shop window, to transform passers-by into happy customers. The demands placed on specialist retailers have grown but the "human factor" and the emotional experience of the products remain the cornerstone of good sales results.
About the author
Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.