High streets are undergoing dramatic changes and will continue to evolve in the next decade. Shopping as we know it is changing too and becoming ‘experience’ driven. We have witnessed this in the last decade with the rise of pop up shops, and more places where you visit to try out new activities that are not always purchase driven – building brand loyalty.
Brands testing their products on the high street or unique services dipping their toes – gaining customer insights before fully committing to a business idea. The rise in experimental shopping is connected to the growth of online shopping, but with this rise in digital shopping means that many brands are not currently interacting with potential customers in person. These new brands that are able to make a connection with their target customer are agile and demonstrating that trying to appeal to a broad market is a failing concept. Traditional bricks and mortar stores not offering a seamless multi channel experience are disappearing and these new brands are emerging.
We can no longer think of retailing in terms of online or bricks and mortar, customers expect to move between the two seamlessly and it is this ethos that is changing the retail landscape. If you look at how brands are connecting and interacting with their customers whether this is in store or online it should be effortless.
An excellent example is an independent brand launched in 2012 , the year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics. Inspired by Mary Portas and her challenge to reignite the british manufacturing industry, Kate Tompsett launched Happy & Glorious initally an online shop. All products sourced and made in the UK, and the owner also developing their own unique products designed and made in-house.
In late 2015 and after testing the high street in PopUp Ashford part of PopUp Britain and with Appear Here in Tunbridge Wells they opened their first shop in Park Mall, Ashford, a business incubator smaller store as part of Ashford Borough Council’s regeneration scheme (a project I led on and devised the strategy for delivering over a two year period.
In January 2017 they moved to a larger premises in Cranbrook, Kent. Their narrative is built around the product being produced in the UK, working with local artists to promote their work and running interactive workshops for the local community. The concept is clear, concise and resonates with their target customer, creating a destination shop in the heart of a local Kentish high street.
I recently booked one of the workshops at Happy & Glorious through their website and only after the event popping up in my Facebook feed. I promptly received my tickets (one for a friend as a birthday present) in the post beautifully packaged with vouchers that could be redeemed in store or online in the coming months. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon in September greeted by a brilliant host – the owner Kate and Jamie Chalmers ‘Mr X Stitch’ the kingpin of contemporary embroidery and as seen on BBC’s Make, Craft Britain. We were treated to sweet and savoury bites, endless tea and coffee and most importantly taught how to cross stitch amongst 10 other happy crafters. Such an enjoyable afternoon for me as I was a complete novice. We were surrounded by beautiful products in a retail shop, whats not to like? These workshops have become a pivotal part of the overall brand strategy and customer engagement, demonstrating that a seamless experience is possible, online and offline.
There is no shortage of empty space across the UK that could be reimagined for experimental shopping or online retailers looking to grow their brands as Happy & Glorious has achieved; understanding more about their customers and delivering experience led activities that will not only support existing high street retail with new concepts, but ensure that the consumer is excited by the evolution of the high street in the coming decades.
It is how our multiple and independent retailers, towns and cities adapt to these changes that will set them apart as a customer destination. You can read more about Place Branding and the Evolution of the High Street by following our retail blog.