Marks & Spencer has opened a store on Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat that may point the way of things to come.

Marks & Spencer has opened a store on Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat that may point the way of things to come.

This is a modestly-sized 500 sq m unit, but one that still manages to pack in a pretty comprehensive clothing and food offer.

But hang on! 500 sq m is not large and would, in the normal run of things, be just about sufficient to shoehorn in a competent food range such that the store would merit the ‘convenience’ label. Just so, but in its Kalverstraat store, M&S actually has a very small physical clothing range that sits alongside a substantial virtual offer.

Up until now, the reality of this form of hybrid retail offer has been a few computer monitors with buttons that can be pressed in order to view “the full offer” as it is generally termed. Maybe so, but this does not really equate to a particularly appealing shopping experience and equally, may not translate to hoped for incremental sales.

M&S on the Kalverstraat, by contrast, has what is termed a “virtual clothes rail”. This may sound a little off-putting and just another example of a bit of tech wizardry that you play with and then move on, but it does actually have practical appeal. On this device, which is a large upright screen, you can slide the clothes along the ‘rail’, turn them round to have a look at them and then see them being worn by a model.

It’s almost better than trying a garment on yourself and on this reckoning there really is a fair chance that a purchase might be the outcome. The other point is that it does indeed become possible to show a broad range without a large physical footprint. If retailers can get shoppers used to this kind of thing, then the cost of setting up the whole shooting match, which will be high, will still be massively offset by the lower operational and lease costs of running a smaller unit.

It is also a good way of showing off what you can do in a new market, without the kind of commitment might otherwise be involved. The only issue is the one that has dogged many retailers heading down this road – the kit has to work. Marks & Spencer does seem to have a way of ensuring this happens however. The only problem is that currently you have to go to Holland to see things in action.