Placemaking is usually seen as a landlord's domain, but the rise of online shopping has prompted retailers also to find new ways to improve the shopping experience…
Many streets and villages across the country have been transformed by retail-focussed placemaking initiatives, instigated primarily by estate owners and other institutional landlords, whose concentrated property ownership allows for maximum impact.
Notable examples on the London landscape include Elizabeth Street in Belgravia and Marylebone High Street, where the Grosvenor and Howard de Walden Estates respectively have carefully selected retailers, cafés and restaurants, whilst at the same time improving the infrastructure and public realm, to create a vibrant community where people want to be.
Similarly in out of town shopping centres, landlords seek to create a destination for customers, incorporating food and leisure outlets throughout the centre, as well as organising events and promotional activities in the common areas.
However, with the exponential rise of online shopping, retailers themselves are also under pressure to create new and exciting shopping experiences to entice customers away from their computers and into their stores. John Lewis, for example, has never made any secret of its desire for constant innovation and is always looking for ways to improve its customers' omnichannel experience with faster payment technology, click and collect/home delivery services and in-store leisure facilities such as beauty salons and champagne bars. Selfridges offer a similar array of services, recently introducing "The Internet of Things", an interactive area where connected products are demonstrated to customers.
"Concept stores" are also on the rise, with an emphasis on showcasing a particular brand, rather than purely selling its products. The Dr Marten's shop in Camden market includes a gig space and bar, as well as facilities allowing customers to take a virtual tour of the factory or personalise their purchases. In the Dyson store on Oxford Street, customers are invited to try out the products; the store even incorporates a blow dry bar using the new Dyson hairdryers. For children, the Lego Shop on Leicester Square contains life size models for photo opportunities as well as areas where children can design their own figures; the queues outside demonstrate that both children and adults are looking for more than just a shopping trip.
Modern technology can also help retailers give customers a unique shopping experience. Harvey Nichols has employed 360 degree changing room mirrors, with video play-back facilities and screens in Pepe Jeans track what customers are trying and suggest alternative outfits. Charlotte Tilbury has offered a "magic mirror", giving shoppers the ability to try on make-up virtually. These technologies also provide useful data for the retailer; Boden, for example, worked with Sizemic to introduce 3D body scanning, helping customers to find the right clothes for their shape whilst also providing data on the average body shape and the variation between sizes to assist in future designs.
Payment is also becoming quicker and easier. Waitrose recently opened its first cashless store and more companies are using tablets and applications to enable speedy transactions; even McDonalds has a touch screen ordering system, to minimise waiting times. To avoid customers having to carry multiple purchases on public transport, companies such as Dropit and Quiqup provide for hands-free shopping, arranging for all of a customer's purchases to be delivered to their home.
In a modern world where customers do not have to leave their house to go on a shopping spree, whether it is for fashion, electronics or even groceries, retailers are having to be innovative to create attractive and exciting in-store experiences. Whilst helping to ensure their profits are kept healthy, such innovations help to make stores destinations for shoppers, attracting footfall to the area and to other stores in the vicinity and helping to create busy, vibrant places to be; benefitting landlord and tenants alike. In an age where the high street has to work hard for its living, no one can afford to rest on their laurels!