In a world of alternative facts and artificial intelligence, it’s no surprise that reality is becoming virtual, and that flesh and blood is being usurped by robots.
It feels like we’ve all gone to live in La-la land (only those of us with entry visas of course). Digital, phygital! Whatever next?
In politics, from Washington to Westminster, the suspension of disbelief is now de rigueur, with Twitter pulling all the strings.
“No matter how convenient and successful Deliveroo and its ilk come to be, are we really going to stop dining out with friends?”
We have to adapt to new times and accept that people express their preferences in ways that defy prediction, or even redefine democracy. So too in commerce; disruption is inevitable with so much digital empowerment at our fingertips.
But there are verities that remain eternal, and one of the most fundamental of these is that human beings are social animals.
The internet has transformed our lives, but Facebook and Snapchat are a reflection, not a rejection, of our sociability. They’ve not stopped us wanting to go out.
Netflix and Apple TV give us great fun at home, but cinema attendances have not suffered. In 2015 box office revenues in the UK actually increased by 17% year-on-year, and these numbers have largely remained stable in 2016.
And no matter how convenient and successful Deliveroo and its ilk come to be, are we really going to stop dining out with friends – including new ones courtesy of our dating apps?
Missguided and Action
The same social criteria apply when it comes to going out shopping: it has to be enjoyable. Two retailers show how unsurprisingly successful stores can be if they surprise and delight their customers.
But they couldn’t be more different.
Missguided, the exciting online phenomenon, has found new rules to rewrite, and Action, the Dutch offline non-food discounter, is racing ahead on international legs, having just won the European Retailer of the Year award for the third year in a row.
Nitin Passi’s new Missguided flagship store in Westfield turns ‘brick and mortar’ into ‘slick and naughty’.
It oozes with fun and surprises; the only one it lacks is an in-store waxing salon to facilitate its large sign declaring “dresses worth shaving your legs for”.
“What keeps five million shoppers a week flocking to Action’s stores – stores that will never win prizes for visual merchandising – is their constant surprise at the goods being sold, and constant amazement at the prices”
At the launch party an archetypal Miss Guided, whose addiction to the brand had until then been fed by a daily online fix, told me: “I love everything here.
The website’s got too much stuff. Here I can see it all.” Who says the mall is dead?
Action’s stores are lower key affairs, and are mostly not in malls. In keeping with all true discounters, finding a profitable way for online transactions has so far proved elusive.
But what keeps five million shoppers a week flocking to its stores – stores that will never win prizes for visual merchandising – is their constant surprise at the goods being sold, and constant amazement at the prices.
The numbers truly impress: 850-plus stores (197 opened last year) across six EU countries; 6,000 SKUs at any one time with 1,500 at less than €1; and 11,000 new products in 2016.
This is really where the action is. Who’d drop such shops? There’s no better alternative. And that’s a fact.