In times gone by, this might have initiated a slash-and-burn response: slash costs, slash prices and burn unwanted stores.
This modus operandi is still followed to an extent, insofar as any retailer that can do so will get rid of underperforming stores. However, in the present market, this is rather more easily said than done. In DSGi’s case, it is ridding itself of unwanted stores as leases expire and it is almost certainly looking at how it can squeeze more money out of the supply chain.
But it is also investing in its stores. The Currysdigital (yes, that’s how it’s spelt on the new-look logo) outlet in Chelmsford, Essex, is a step forward in making a portable technology store more straightforward to shop in. The temptation to shout about promotions and plaster the interior with generally unnecessary point-of-sale material has been resisted, sightlines have been improved and the product mix has been rationalised. And it looks good – the kind of place you might actually want to spend time in, rather than just a repository for scart cables and opaque information about electrical gadgets.
About 130 miles west of Chelmsford is Swindon – the point where you cease to be in eastern England and are suddenly at the gateway to the West Country. It is in this town that DSGi has chosen to test a new look for its larger format Currys stores. In this space, which, at 20,000 sq ft, is seven or eight times the size of its Chelmsford relative, there are white and brown goods, as well as the categories stocked in the Essex shop.
What DSGi has managed to do is to take a handwriting and apply it across both formats, achieving the same level of presentation clarity in both. And remember how shouty the interior of a Currys store has been in the past? The effect of walking into the Swindon branch is like a leisurely stroll around Regent’s Park, compared with boarding a gravity-defying ride at Alton Towers. Both have their merits, but if you are going to do something regularly, you’d probably opt for the Regent’s Park experience over theme park terror.
All of which illustrates that good is coming out of bad and that, when the downturn comes to an end, we will have better shops.