Talk to almost any retailer at the moment and it will only be a couple of minutes before things digital form part of the discussion.
The accepted wisdom is that if you can’t cut it online then you might as well not bother because that’s where the future lies.
It is also the case that the majority of retailers that have meaningful physical estates and an online presence see much more rapid growth coming from their virtual shops than their bricks-and-mortar outposts. There is, however, one glorious exception: Primark.
“The website is in fact about driving shoppers into the stores where they can indulge their inner Primark”
Yes, it has a consumer website and currently the homepage has links to ‘Primania’, the rage to buy its cut-price fashion, as well as an exhortation to look ‘cool while the sun’s shining hot’. All good, but this is a look-see vehicle, not one where you can actually buy anything, other than a gift card.
The website is in fact about driving shoppers into the stores where they can indulge their inner Primark as they grab a shopping bag and start consuming. And consume they do.
Visiting the freshly opened Primark in the Westfield mall at Shepherd’s Bush last week, it was apparent that even early on a Wednesday afternoon the tills were ringing out.
The reason for this is pretty simple. As well as being a store where the stock changes constantly and prices are not high, this one looks winsome. From the moment an approach is made, the store shines out, largely thanks to the pair of massive screens that have been located on the fascia.
“Hard not to buy something when presented with this kind of full-on visual experience”
Together, they are a siren call to those walking the new extension to the shopping centre, and their loud ‘look at me’ nature must be something of an irritation to John Lewis, the store’s immediate neighbour.
Inside, blue-wigged mannequins, suspended ceiling rafts studded with LED lights and graphics inviting shoppers to ‘Find your amazing’, maintain the promise of the exterior and then, finally, there is the stock.
Hard not to buy something when presented with this kind of full-on visual experience and, as an organisation, the results speak for themselves.
To an extent, Primark has eschewed digital as most retailers understand it for the simple reason that Primark has created a formula where constant growth from physical stores is the norm and there is still room for expansion in new markets.
Given all of this, digital begins to look like a mild distraction, and ‘the Primark effect’, similar to ‘the Waitrose effect’, is fast becoming a reality. There is life in the high street yet, without digital.