A retail park on the edge of Derby is home to a newly-opened Halfords store of the future.
Derby is a city just shy of 250,000 people at the last count, and boasts an Intu shopping centre, a Gothic cathedral and a Rolls-Royce factory.
It is also home to a Halfords “store of the future”, which recently opened.
“Located on a retail park a couple of miles from the city centre, one thing is apparent, it does look a lot like a regular Halfords”
Halfords has in fact been doing rather well lately – it posted a 5.9% like-for-like increase across the company for the 15 weeks to January 12, with a 7% year-on-year increase in retail like-for-likes.
All of which means that things are going well for the company, and it might appear that its shops tick many boxes.
The future is now
Stepping into this particular store of the future – located on a retail park a couple of miles from the city centre – one thing is apparent, it does look a lot like a regular Halfords.
In part this is probably the nature of the beast. If a retail business is posited on having car accessories on one floor and a semi-discrete bike shop on the mezzanine above it, there will inevitably be quite a lot in common between any new format to the ones that have preceded it.
That said, standing at the entrance three elements catch the eye: a “Park Up and Relax” area, complete with chairs, coffee machine and a wall-mounted screen, a mid-shop overhead above the cash desk, and a user-friendly graphic beckoning shoppers upstairs.
The first of these is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of this retailer’s vision of the future.
With a vinyl-wood floor and pendant lights overhead, as well an orange and grey wall, it is clear that this is something different from the rest of the store.
The space is in fact a holding area for the shopper waiting perhaps for a bike repair to be completed, or maybe having something done to a car that requires a short wait.
Central to the area is a screen, listing the job being completed and the customer’s name – a new feature broadly linked to expectation management.
This could be termed futuristic as far as some retailers are concerned, but does amount to little more than adopting something that is commonplace in other sectors.
The same is true to the layout of this floor. The area has been zoned, giving it a more contemporary feel and allowing shoppers to wander around the “Technology Hub”, which includes satnavs and other electronic devices, or perhaps take a spin through the “Motoring Hub”.
All of this could be possible in a standard Halfords, but the feel here is rather more compartmentalised.
This is actually a low-cost store of the future, which is positive as far as a roll-out is concerned.
The ground and first floor are on-brand with the corporate colours of orange, turquoise and black used throughout on all of the signage.
Discounted items at the front of the branch are red, just before the cash desk island found in the middle.
Heading upstairs, graphics on the stairwell walls urge shoppers to “Grab life by the handlebars”, which leads to the mezzanine level and the bike shop.
“This is actually a low-cost store of the future, which is positive as far as a roll-out is concerned”
Like the ground floor, much is made of the click-and-collect service if the signs are anything to go by.
A tethered road bike enables customers to take a virtual ride without actually going anywhere, which is standard in Halfords’ Cycle Republic stores. This does however, afford the chance to try some of the accessories nearby.
There is also a racetrack in the kids’ area that allows small bikes to be tried out.
Shoppers might be a little pressed to discern the future Halfords from what is on view in Derby, but this is a smart warehouse-style shop, and a step forward for the retailer.
And if you do arrive at the retail park by bicycle, there’s a rather nice stand to chain your bike to that forms the word “Park” in bright yellow metal letters. It’s the details that matter.
Halfords, Kingsway Retail Park, Derby
Status: “Store of the future”
Number of floors: two
Size: 9,251 sq ft
Technology: standard, but an improvement