As online retail become increasingly popular retailers must provide an in-store offer that can’t be experienced on a computer or smartphone.

If, like me, you’re a Twitterer, you may well be aware of a particular account that chronicles the state of the carpets – and overall housekeeping – at one of Britain’s most famous retail chains.

Embracing photos of gaffer tape, dodgy stains and inexplicable merchandising, the results are often hysterical.

There’s also a serious point being made, however – that in an era where online shopping and an intensely competitive market are the norm, physical stores have to work harder than ever to make customers desire to go there.

That’s precisely the point I made recently when I was asked about what retailers must do to create the in-store experience that consumers want. The term ‘in-store theatre’ is overused, but if a store is seeking to offer something customers can’t get via a computer, tablet or smartphone, it does come down to creating a blend of product, environment and service that encapsulates the brand and fosters a feeling of joy.

For all the entertainment value of those dubious carpet tweets, it’s good to see many of the stores I encounter on my travels are actually getting it right – with plenty of great independent examples here in the Northeast.

In Middlesbrough, the designer fashion emporium Psyche could teach some department stores a thing or two about marrying high-end product with a beautiful shopfit to match. At Newcastle’s Fenwick, the elegant shop windows are consistently the best in the street, making a clear statement about what shoppers can expect inside. And in Morpeth, the home furnishings department of 168-year-old Rutherfords has a unique sense of style and flair that helps explain the family-owned store’s longevity.

Often, when I see a store interior I really like, I’ll ask if I can take and tweet a picture – recognising the free publicity, most are happy to oblige. So, while it’s right to expose retail environments that just aren’t good enough, let’s not forget to keep sharing – and learning from – the brilliant, the innovative and the uplifting, too.

  • Graham Soult, retail consultant,