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Not on the high street: retail's silver service

Michael Sheridan, chairman and founder of retail design agency Sheridan & Co, explains how restaurants can provide an unexpected source of inspiration for retailers.


Not on the high street: retail's silver service

Michael Sheridan, chairman and founder of retail design agency Sheridan & Co, explains how restaurants can provide an unexpected source of inspiration for retailers.

As consumers gain greater confidence and continue to use online shopping as a matter of course, high street stores must continue to go above and beyond when it comes to surprising and delighting their visitors.

Dwell creation is something that is increasingly familiar on the high street. Leisure sectors, such as hospitality, share many core values to retail. Ensuring high levels of service contributes to brand loyalty allowing both restaurants and shops, to generate repeat custom and a reputation as go-to destinations.

The initial greeting is especially important in restauration, be it Pizza Express or Chiltern Firehouse – I certainly wouldn't return to a restaurant if there were a poor reception. However, it isn't just about customer service and behaviours. Retailers can learn lessons from the way restaurateurs optimise space to create interest and a unique shopping environment.  

A good example of this type of blending is Harrods. The store's food court is a destination in its own right. In addition to the counters are restaurants and cafés that cater to every taste, from expertly executed sushi and caviar to a Ladurée tea room. As an established, exclusive name, Harrods encapsulates a sense of 'see and be seen', with foods that reflect its aspirational core values and a décor that stays true to its Victorian origins. The best restaurants remember to pay attention to finer details that can sometimes become lost in overall design. It is a weakness that can often affect bar areas in particular, as practicality overrides aesthetic, however Harrods knows how to combine the grandiose with function.  

One brand that hits the nail on the head is cycle brand Rapha. Its café in Piccadilly (and other locations worldwide) takes into account the brand's stripped-back, sleek theme, and incorporates it into every aspect of design, from the castors on the table legs to the retro Italian newspaper table placemats. A specialist store for its fans, it is the small touches like these that create reference points that strengthen affinity between Rapha and its following, without alienating new visitors.

Pop-ups continue to grow in popularity in both sectors, and for good reason. A cost-effective and engaging method, I expect the trend will continue to grow in 2015.

Last autumn, Hermès set up a hugely successful pop-up Americana-style diner in Columbus Circle mall in New York, selling its silks, jewellery and enamel goods. This included a board with 'Silk Daily Specials', neon lighting and diner stools, tapping into New York deli culture. For 2014, the brand has opened a pop-up concession in Grand Central station. Not your typical location – and it is this ability of brands to adapt to available spaces that sets them apart from the crowd.

Providing shoppers with an exciting dwell space means that retailers can interact with new and regular customers in new ways. Be it a mobile champagne bar (courtesy of Veuve Cliquot) or Harvey Nichols' pop-up food market at Liverpool ONE, retailers are looking to a trend that flourished in the restaurant trade. And running with it.

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