Experiential retail and radical thinking will be the driver for Croydon’s future success, that was the key message from a panel of experts at the Develop Croydon Conference.
The session “Bricks and Clicks”, sponsored by the Croydon Partnership, included Carolyn Kenney, Project Director, Hammerson, Steve Yewman, Development Director, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Oliver Bycroft, Director, Prologis and Eva Pascoe, Director, The Retail Practice and detailed what they think will be the key drivers in retail’s future, both for the physical store and online.
Kenney opened the debate, saying: “We are going through a seismic shift in retail but there are opportunities there. I think the death of the high street has been over reported and in revolutionary times there is a need for radical thinking and there are opportunities available.”
Yewman agreed: “It is a seismic shift. What’s very interesting is the speed of retail today whether it’s online or in-store it has to happen quickly, you have to do things quickly and you have to change. We are very positive about Croydon and I don’t think our company would have bought us if it didn’t believe in physical retail.”
Bycroft stressed the growth of online shopping in the UK: “The retail trends are not unique to the UK, they are global, but we are at the forefront. Our spending online is larger than the US and Europe, we are not sure what the future is going to be but we will be looked at as an example. It’s clear that bricks and mortar need to adapt, with technology changing and consumer behaviour. The consumer will drive where that equilibrium lands.”
Kenney confirmed that the physical store now needs to attract people and entertain them, it needs to be a place that consumers can enjoy.
“Shopping in store is about showcasing a brand, demonstrating how it differentiates from its competitors, which can be hard to do in an online environment,” she said. “It is about educating the customer about the product, bringing learning and fun into the store.”
She also discussed the need for flexibility, providing pop-up shops and giving brands the opportunity to take additional space as and when needed. Providing an offer that compliments online, allowing people to order multiple items and then have the ability to take back into a store.
Eva Pascoe noted the findings from the Grimsey Review 2 report released this year, she said: “Overall vacancies have only dropped by a fraction and the larger shopping centres are doing well, but people are shopping online more rather than in store.”
She also noted that the traditional high street is surviving but changing, she felt the older generation are still using the high street more than the young, so the shops would need to reflect that with more health orientated stores. “Currently the main winner on the high street is the vape stores, alongside coffee shops and the service industry as these are things you have to do with your body, you cannot do them online,” she said.
Bycroft then stressed the need to recognise the importance of online: “For many it gives time back in a world where many people are very time poor. From a logistics perspective there is not much of a difference in terms of the chain, a product is manufactured then exported to a distribution centre, the only change is the final destination a shop or home, that decision will always be driven by the consumer.”
The panel concluded by focusing on what retail has to offer the young. Pascoe noted the trend in gaming competitions being shown in venues in Europe which has helped to attract young people. Yewman then concluded by emphasising that the shopping centre has to offer something for everyone, for example, giving young people access to WIFI and after school clubs has been a key part of its model at the Westfield London and Westfield Stratford.
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