Think carefully about how excess retail space is put to alternative use – it could have an effect on what’s already there.
Published in 1981, 101 Uses for a Dead Cat was an instant success as page after page revealed another humorous way in which a deceased feline could have utility beyond its demise.
Something of the kind can be seen in the current attempts by retailers with overlarge stores to put excess space to alternative use.
The stores weren’t always too big, of course, it’s just that the web has made a certain amount of high street space at best unwanted and, in a number of instances, unviable. So what can be done?
“Suddenly placing wildly disparate things next to each other is likely to detract from both”
John Lewis is considering using some of its surplus space for co-working – the phenomenon that sees (mainly) Apple laptop-toting types sitting for hours with a cold macchiato and a smartphone communicating with the world from their ‘office’.
There’s nothing wrong with this, except that in a shop it has to be done sensitively.
Visiting a restaurant off modish Old Street recently, complete with unhelpfully high prices, it was hard not to be put off by the nomadic office workers who sat just beyond the space afforded to diners.
I’ve no idea what they were actually doing, but laughter and an ‘I’m a lot trendier/more important and in tune with the zeitgeist than you’ vibe were the things that made their way to our table.
The in-store experience
Not perhaps such a glaring problem in John Lewis where people and movement are all part of the experience, but it’s hard to see it sitting comfortably with much of the rest of the offer.
Co-shopping is something we all do, sharing the in-store space and experience with others unless you live in designer-land, where solo browsing is probably the norm. But as anyone involved in store layout will tell you, there are some things that go together and some that really don’t.
Perhaps the answer is to separate non-complementary activities with walls.
“Opposite, we are told, attract, but in truth, retailers spend an awful lot of time working out what ‘goes’ with what and what does not”
The only problem with this is that it creates odd-looking spaces and removes the possibility of showing passersby that you also have alternatives to the simple business of viewing and buying merchandise.
Opposites, we are told, attract, but in truth retailers spend an awful lot of time working out what ‘goes’ with what and what does not.
Suddenly placing wildly disparate things next to each other is likely to detract from both.
John Lewis may be in the ‘early stages’ of formulating plans for paid co-working spaces in its stores, but before it goes much further it should consider the effect of the plaid-shirted, skinny-jeaned brigade on others who might be in its stores.
Horses for courses and all that.