One of the unknown effects of multichannel revolution has been what it means for the shape of physical retail.

One of the unknown effects of multichannel revolution has been what it means for the shape of physical retail. This week we’ve begun to see the answers. Results from property giants Hammerson and Capital Shopping Centres both highlighted that footfall and sales in bigger centres are holding up better than smaller ones. They would say that, wouldn’t they?

But there’s no question that there is a polarisation taking place between the run-of-the-mill centres and those that offer a day out and a genuine leisure experience. After all, if you know what you want to buy and want to buy it as cheaply and as quickly as possible, increasingly you’ll be likely to buy that online or in the supermarket.

If, however, you want to browse, take your time over shopping, have lunch with your friends and catch a film as well, you’ll want to go somewhere with the biggest choice of shops and the most pleasant environment.

This trend is not new, but it is accelerating rapidly. What is new is how retailers are responding. House of Fraser’s store for the collection of online orders in Aberdeen is that rarest of things – a genuinely new idea in retailing.

And it makes perfect sense. Aberdeen isn’t just affluent, it is miles from any other major centre so there’s no danger of the new pick-up store cannibalising House of Fraser store sales, will be convenient and give the brand a physical manifestation in the city at a low cost.

Click-and-collect is emerging as the way very many people choose to shop online. And that is going to mean that new forms of store are going to be needed – not just by multichannel retailers, but very likely by pure-plays too.

Reynolds’ ascent begins

Good luck to Julia Reynolds, who started as chief executive of Blacks this week. As well as being a welcome addition to the tiny number of female chief executives in retail, she is straightforward and direct enough to get straight to the heart of the problems facing this business.

She’s going to need all the toughness learnt at Tesco to sort them out. Neil Gillis may have kept the wolf from the door but Blacks is a business that remains on the precipice. Sales are falling, it was forced to increase its debt facilities and the anorak-wearing crowd have fallen out of love with Blacks and Millets. Add to that Mike Ashley getting back up to his not-very-subtle tricks, and the mountain to climb looks less Ben Nevis, more Everest.