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The evolving role of stores in a multi-channel world

Amidst the flurry of store closures and on-going High Street woes, it was refreshing to attend a recent industry breakfast offering a new perspective on the future of retail: on-line and store retailing working hand in hand to contribute to the overall success of the business. By Gavin Matthews, head of retail at Bond Dickinson.


The evolving role of stores in a multi-channel world

And who better than Hedonism Wines and John Lewis to show us the way?

Both are extremely successful – Hedonism Wines has a store in Mayfair that has grown in popularity thanks to its unique offering of 7,100 lines of wines, spirits and whiskies. John Lewis continues to enjoy a strong performance and plans to grow from the present 40 outlets to a potential 60 stores. Both businesses have recognised on-line and store work better together - that on-line retail drives customers through their door.

John Lewis recognises in particular that on-line sales are higher in areas where there is a John Lewis store. Successful integration of the operations of stores and website was brought by the restructuring of the business whereby teams have been merged for on-line and stores. There has also been early recognition by senior management of the value of investing in technology rather than adding another store. Areas of investment include new tills with internet access, providing visibility of out-of-stocks and enabling browsing.

Once through the doors, both retailers make sure that customers enjoy a unique shopping experience. For Hedonism Wines, through the use of in-store theatre, with tasting machines offering 48 wines, iPads for customers’ children, and knowledgeable employees who are prepared to “go the extra mile”. For John Lewis, with the recognition that one of the most popular elements in-store remain the cafes and restaurants that increase dwell time. Free tea and cake are also to be offered to members of its forthcoming loyalty scheme, which follows the free coffee and newspapers that can already be enjoyed by customers signed up John Lewis’ myWaitrose.

And there lies the future of the High Street… not dying, but embracing the opportunities offered by on-line retailing and evolving to give consumers a fully enjoyable experience, turning casual shopping into destination shopping. 


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