Schuh has revealed its new future-proofed store design, which it hopes to roll out across its fleet of shops.
The newly designed Bluewater store in Kent opened its doors to the public on March 21. The airy design, which has a focus on technology, is expected to be rolled out across the brand if the new design is a hit with customers.
Speaking exclusively to Retail Week Phil Whittle, head of store operations, said the new-look store is the most technically advanced store to date, and is future-proofed to anticipate the use of mobile over the next five to seven years.
Schuh tends to refresh its stores every five years, and for its latest look Whittle said it wanted to challenge itself by going “back to the drawing board” and consider the way customers shop with the brand.
More than a year ago, Schuh visited Korea and Japan to research how shoppers are using mobile and technology in two of the most digitally advanced countries in the world.
The technology in the new Bluewater refit incorporates different elements that have been trialled over the past 18 months. Kiosks which show real-time visibility of stock across the company are part of the design, while a second screen displays website content and Twitter feeds across the store.
According to Whittle the main aim is for Schuh to eventually completely remove its cash desks. The refitted Bluewater store has cash desks as well as kiosks and employees with mobile devices who can take payments on the shopfloor.
“I think we are very, very close to the point where we won’t need the desk at all and we will be able to give that space back to product,” he said. “If you complete payment where you’re sitting, it makes your journey much nicer and you’ll be in and out of the store much quicker.”
As part of the refit, Whittle also said it was important to make the store feel more open and give it a lighter feel using birch wood. A new partnership with the design house MRA provided what Whittle called an “intelligent approach” to the design, with windows which provides the customer with a clearer view into the store to entice them in.
“We’re known for packing a lot of shoes into our stores – it’s part of our DNA,” he said. “But our brief was to put in just as much but for it to feel like less, as we’re mindful it can be overwhelming for our customers.”
Whittle said it is likely for the design to be rolled out to Schuh stores and will be the design of choice for any new openings, but there needs to be a time period to ensure customers respond well before committing.
But if the customer takes to the design he expects to see a return on investment within the first year as new designs tend to outperform the company performance.
“I’ve got a strong feeling we’ll know once we’ve gone through the Easter period, I’ll know if this is going to deliver the type of sales growth we’re looking for,” he said.