The best retailers work to move with the times and if this means shops that don’t conform to the norm, then so be it.
Look in the window of a large shop along Tottenham Court Road and all is festive. Amid the yuletide greenery you’ll notice a vintage-style Roberts Radio, a Superdry backpack and sundry other items that Santa might feel inclined to drop down the chimney. Aha, a gift shop or perhaps a small department store then?
Well, no, this is one of those Currys/PC World hybrid shops and its overwhelming proposition remains consumer electronics.
What is on view however is an attempt to soften the hard-edged face of technology and make it more acceptable to a general audience. What Dixons has done is what a number of large retailers are engaging in currently – creating stores that do not necessarily bear the hallmarks usually associated with them. Internally, this Tottenham Court Road store does indeed look more like a technology store, but it is less about gigabyte performance et al and rather more to do with lifestyling the products. More or less a year since Dixons unveiled its Black format in Birmingham, the retail group has taken its stores and given many of the larger branches a makeover that has transformed things. This may also help to explain why Dixons’ stores remain on the high street while Best Buy vanishes and Comet is given away.
The way forward would appear to be to present shoppers with stores that may not quite be what they appear. Something of the kind is apparent in fashion at the moment with the Topman General Store in East London. This looks absolutely nothing like a standard Topman and yet get up close to the stock and it is indeed all springing from the same Arcadia stable.
Speaking to an independent fashion retailer in the Spitalfields area last week, it was apparent that there was considerable ill-feeling towards this new arrival and that it is regarded as something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And yet if a multiple can change its guise to suit the consumer mood, isn’t this exactly what it should be doing?
The best retailers are those that can adapt to the prevailing mood and present shoppers with formats and visual merchandising that will make them view things in a new light. Both Topman and Currys/PC World stand as example of this tendency in action and other outfits would do well to notice what can be done with a little imagination and thinking beyond normal confines.