Parenting and maternity specialist Kiddicare has opened its latest store in Enfield, London.

Retail parks are strange places at the moment. Many have empty units, thanks to the departure of folded retailers such as Comet, and the search for occupiers goes on. Yet at the same time, there are occasions when particular stores are mobbed.

This happened at one such store in May on the outskirts of northeast London in Enfield. Kiddicare has had a physical store presence since it opened its first branch in Nottingham last year. A modest roll-out of the format that was unveiled at that location has been taking place since and Enfield is the latest evidence of the robust nature of the proposition.

As with the other eight stores that comprise the retailer’s portfolio, this one used to be a Best Buy. And at 33,000 sq ft, this is a large single floor shed, typical of the sort of thing found on an edge-of-town retail park.

On opening day the store was humming. It was a Monday, the week before half-term, and by rights the car park should have been more than half empty. Yet it was full, and many of those who had left their cars behind were to be found in the Kiddicare store. And yes, there was a former Comet store in spitting distance of this new arrival - still with the large orange logo in place and seemingly in want of a new tenant.

Attracting the crowds

A commercial park of two distinct parts, it seems, and the Kiddicare store is a shot in the arm. But why is it so popular? Even allowing for the fact that it was launch day, the brouhaha normally dies down a couple of hours after the doors are opened. By mid-afternoon, however, the queue that snaked towards the cash tills showed no sign of getting any shorter.

In part, this has to do with the product.

A large sign on the outside of the store boasts ‘We’ll beat any price’. Possibly so, and given the retailer’s origins as an online retailer with lower costs than those with bricks-and-mortar stores, this might not be entirely surprising.

But what perhaps has attracted the crowds is not just the prices, but the fact that this is a retailer that provides something close to an experience for parents and mums-to-be, within the confines of an edge-of-town shed. The blueprint for the roll-out has been provided by design consultancy 20/20 and there is much about the store in Enfield that is similar to the Nottingham pilot, which opened in September 2012.

Creating in-store drama

This store is a relatively low-cost fit-out made impressive by a graphics package that is both consistent and striking, and which spreads across the whole store. Whether it’s the car seats, displayed on plinths near the entrance where signs such as ‘Park here’ or ‘We fit for you’ inform and amuse, or the sign above the restaurant that reads ‘kiddi café’, this is about making a large space feel intimate.

And sheds on this scale need to be broken down if they are to be acceptable to shoppers and for dwell times to be prolonged. It is something that is, in fact, all too frequently overlooked as retailers attempt to get as much as possible onto a sales floor and forget that shoppers need to be enticed as much as overwhelmed by selection.

No such danger in the Enfield store. This is, in many ways, like an Ikea store, where the mid-shop walls and visual merchandising are used to break down the floor into manageable chunks. Unlike the purveyor of Swedish homewares, however, Kiddicare uses its digital heritage to good effect, with everything from mid-shop kiosks to dump bins on the way to the checkouts that have small items accompanied by digital shelf-edge signage.

The visual merchandising elements, such as the high-chair wall and the pram and pushchair test-track, add to the in-store drama of what could, potentially, have been a somewhat sterile interior.

A winning formula

Kiddicare has come up with a formula that is relatively inexpensive as far as fit-out is concerned, but which looks the part and is engaging, perhaps even for those who do not have children, but are shopping for them.

It also shows how quickly a formula can be established and find favour in areas where it may well have been unfamiliar prior to its arrival. There is a sense in some quarters that retail parks may have passed their best, but while there are retailers such as Kiddicare it seems reasonable to suppose that their future remains relatively assured.

The arrival of this retailer as a bricks-and-mortar player stores also shows how the digital/terrestrial divide is not as stark as might be supposed. There are plenty of online operators who would like to
have a physical presence, albeit a relatively limited one.

Kiddicare may well be a pointer to the future as far as retail is concerned. Meanwhile, Enfield’s shoppers have a new destination to add to the list.