Beware of retail snake-oil salesmen who hope to attract attention and revenue by calling a new branch a store of the future. It probably isn’t.
B&Q opened a small format store on Friday and from the look of it, it’s an edited version of its (much) bigger sisters, tailored to appeal to urban project DIYers and those who just want a few bits and pieces for some routine maintenance.
It is a great example of down-to-earth retailing and in no way sells itself as a ‘store of the future’ – it’s simply a different version of what’s already been tried and tested.
The privilege of being a future store is reserved for branches that purport to offer a glimpse of what’s just around the corner in terms of the way they look and work for shoppers.
For the most part, a store of the future is, at best, a store of earlier this morning
Except that this very rarely happens. For the most part, a store of the future is, at best, a store of earlier this morning and all too frequently the reality is that it will be an emporium that is struggling to look like something from the day before yesterday.
How ‘store of the future’ came to be a term that found universal favour with the boardrooms of large retail enterprises is in itself an interesting question.
The possibly unpalatable fact is that it has become so hackneyed that it is now little more than a branch with a few more screens or perhaps a kiosk or two that takes the user into ‘the wider world’ of a retailer’s offer (or, ”please look at one of these monitors, we’ve got more stuff if you don’t like what you see in here”).
A store of the future suffers a spectacular fall from grace as all of the fripperies that were deemed whizzy prove to be nothing of the kind
Normally, a store of the future suffers a spectacular fall from grace as all of the fripperies that were deemed whizzy prove to be nothing of the kind and shoppers give them the thumbs down.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with trying to do something a little different. Yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that many stores of the future are the outcome of a board providing a distraction from lacklustre performance.
Equally true is the fact that sometimes retailers get it right.
The Primark store on Madrid’s Gran Via really does feel as if you have stepped into a store from tomorrow and it continues to attract admiring glances from its customers.
But for every futuristic Primark, there are other retailers that rapidly become like any other store as the need to provide a return on investment becomes paramount.
Beware therefore of stores that claim to be a step into tomorrow. If you come across one that looks like it will do well today, then it’s probably going to fare far better.