Knowing your competitive backyard is just not good enough. Take a look at what retailers en masse are doing to sell more merchandise.

The best retailers are the ones that know what’s what. This is more than a blinding glimpse of the obvious because all retailers everywhere know what their competitors are up to. Those who succeed however have a broader vision.

“When it comes to doing something new, there will almost always be someone, somewhere else, who is doing something similar”

John Ryan, Stores editor

A couple of weeks ago Halfords opened a Cycle Republic at the base of London’s Euston tower. This is not the first time it has done so – it shelved the brand some time ago, but now it is reborn and it looks different. This time the window is vaguely reminiscent of something, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Maybe three miles to the southwest there is the original Conran Shop, in one of the poshest parts of that very posh part of London where South Kensington reaches out to meet Knightsbridge. Inside this store there is a wall filled with chairs. Each of these is displayed in an open-sided box and these are then stacked on top of each other in a sort of outsize pigeonhole affair. The effect is compelling. It’s a bit like an individual frame for each of the chairs that is on offer.

Now back to Cycle Republic and the window is composed of similar boxes, with each providing a home for a folding bike. Back in the day, the folding bike was the domain of the Brompton and it probably still is. Now however there are many other companies that have created variants on the folding commuter bike and taken collectively and put in boxes in a window it’s just as hard not to look as it is in the Conran Shop.

In fairness, there is a Brompton bike emporium in Covent Garden that does the same thing, but what this is all illustrative of is that when it comes to making a difference, think beyond your immediate sector and take a look at what retailers of unrelated categories are up to.

‘Seeking inspiration’ is a rather nice way of saying ‘imitating’, but it is probably worth noting that when it comes to doing something that you may consider new, there will almost always be someone, somewhere else, who is doing something similar. As the year comes to a close therefore, and while the shops are still more or less looking at their best, head out, do a little last-minute Christmas shopping and have a good think about what retailers en masse are doing to promote their wares. Nothing like combining a little business with pleasure.