-By Kristy Attard
Shopping – some people can’t get enough while others can’t get out the door fast enough. No matter if you find a day at the shops boring, thrilling, frustrating or fun, there is no denying that the retail sector is an important part of the Australian and indeed the world economy. Stimulating the retail sector through payments made to the Australian people was an important part of narrowly avoiding economic meltdown during the global financial crisis. Online shopping has had a big impact on Australian retailers with brands having to adapt the way they do business to remain sustainable. Retailers must up their game to entice shoppers back through their doors. It’s all about creating a special instore vibe, one that you cannot get from looking at a computer screen. Fashion and beauty retailers are selling more than what’s on the hanger or shelf; they’re selling an instore experience and an image now more than ever.
Online vs Instore
Online shopping is a tempting option with several advantages over the traditional shopping experience. There are no parking fees, no crowds and no waiting around in long queues. Purchases made online are GST free, something many retailers are campaigning against. Consumers can shop online in the comfort of their own home 24/7 with purchases being delivered as soon as a few hours later in some instances. The convenience of online shopping has many people turning to the Internet rather than malls and centres. Due to the recent trend of thrifty shoppers trying on stock and walking away only to buy it online at a fraction of the cost, some luxury labels have even started charging a fee to try on certain items.
Retail today is about creating a unique experience for shoppers. 100Squared located on the ground floor at Westfield in busy Pitt Street Sydney is a good example of the modern face of retail. It is literally 100 square meters of white tiled space devoted to designer stalls creating a contemporary market feel. Consumers with a keen eye for fashion like markets, believing that they can snaffle a bargain find that no one else will have. 100Squared features an ever-changing array of pop up shop stalls in clean, air-conditioned comfort, combining the best of both worlds.
The pop up shop phenomenon is a reflection of the transient world in which we live and of retail today, fresh and quirky. Pop up shops are the mushrooms of the retail world appearing in major fashion capitals like London, Tokyo, New York and now Sydney. A shop, stall or kiosk opens for business and shortly after disappears only to reappear elsewhere. Pop up shops may appear in busy shopping centres or sometimes in an out of the way, random place like a warehouse. Shoppers think, â€˜Hey that wasn’t there before!’ and out of curiosity wander over for a look, inevitably buying something. Having pop up shops establishes an attention getting physical presence for brands with reduced overheads. These savings can then be passed on to consumers. Pop up shops, while being fun and decidedly gimmicky, create a sense of urgency. Their limited life pressures people to buy now while it lasts with the sales assistant catch cry â€˜We’re not going to be here for long!’ The idea that a pop up shop will be here and gone in the blink of an eye serves another purpose with encouraging shoppers to buy. Consumers have the impression that they can purchase something that not many people will have since the pop up shop will be here today, gone tomorrow.
Retailers will do just about anything to attract people back through their doors, even resorting to shock tactics like risquÃ© ads with foul language and vulgar images. They offend and at the same time get attention and media coverage. People are curious by nature and want to go and have a look at what all the commotion is about. Retailers will often put their most extreme or avant-garde items on show to create a scene and bring people in, even if the display items border on the ridiculous. The store display will undoubtedly have the craziest items on show: the nosebleed, skyscraper high heels no one can walk properly in, the loud twin colour suits, the vintage pieces that look like they came from your grandma’s wardrobe… anything out of the ordinary to make a splash.
In a way, many traditional ideas about shopping have either been turned around completely or revitalised. The shopping experience has been getting more interactive. Many retailers actively encourage shoppers to use testers and/or have a product demonstration, binning the old â€˜look with your eyes only’ rule. Many stores now feature guest books, exactly like hotels do. Shoppers can fill in an entry and make their mark for others to read. It’s all about getting hands on to make the instore experience more memorable for consumers.
Once, you could walk into a shop and the sales attendant would coordinate an entire outfit for you. To bring back this concept and give it a modern twist, some retailers provide a one on one styling session instore. A stylist will coordinate the season’s latest trends into an outfit (for a price) and gives the shopper advice on what shapes and colours suit their figure. It adds value to the shopping experience for the consumer, bringing them in for a special experience.
Music has always been used to enhance the buying experience and influence the way people spend. The type of music played depends on what the retailer wants customers to do. Music with a fast beat like dance and pop tunes encourage people to get in, buy something in a flash and get out. Music with a slower tempo makes people more inclined to linger and browse. Today, many retailers organise guest appearances by DJ’s to bring interested customers through the door.
Store lighting is another important factor that retailers take into careful consideration. Lately store lighting has been getting more adventurous to help create a buzz, incorporating everything from vintage style lampshades to retro lava lamps. Lavish chandeliers create an atmosphere of luxury and extravagance. Super bright lights make everything on offer sparkle. Shadowy, dim lighting creates a more relaxed, offbeat atmosphere.
Flagship stores are another way retailers get shoppers off the computer and buying instore. A flagship store is the head store for a brand, offering a diverse range of items in a larger, more impressive premise. Celebrity appearances and events like competitions, giveaways and more are usually organised for these shops, which tend to be located in major cities.
Vintage clothing and accessories are still high on the fashion radar. Vintage pieces have the appeal of being one-off items sourced from around the world. With that international aspect to vintage fashion comes international sizes, so it can be tricky buying vintage fashions online. Accordingly, vintage shops have been springing up everywhere promising shoppers unique pieces at bargain prices.
The all-important carry bay and gift-wrapping is the final addition for retailers keen to enhance the instore experience. Time poor consumers, particularly around the holidays, appreciate the convenience of instore gift-wrapping. And as shallow as it sounds, walking out with a flashy carry bag has a definite feel-good factor, as well as providing free advertising for the brand. Most retailers now have highly distinctive carry bags, so onlookers immediately recognise the brand. In response to escalating consumer environmental concerns, many retailers are providing biodegradable or fabric bags. The beauty of providing eco friendly bags, besides saving the environment, is that the buyer will reuse them, giving the brand even more recognition. It’s a win-win situation.
Store dÃ©cor has really gone to new heights to encourage shoppers to come on in, showcase items and encourage spending. What theme retailers choose to create with their store dÃ©cor depends on the brand image, their target audience and what they’re selling. One of the predominant looks that fashion retailers try to encapsulate, targeting women with their store decor, is Parisian glamour. Mirrors, dressmaker’s dolls, teacups, bird cages and flowers strategically arranged create a chic, feminine feel. There might be plenty of pink, polka dots and Eiffel tower motifs throughout the store, creating visual interest. Faux pearls and sparkling diamantes give a rich look for less as burning scented candles fill the air with fragrance, creating a sensory experience. These stores are selling an image – of being a stylish, pampered lady in a perfect world – as much as the stock.
Some fashion retailers, particularly those aimed at a young, trendy market buck the glamour trend, going for an edgy, industrial aesthetic instead. Exposed faux wiring, neon lights, distressed floors and stainless steel shelving are typical features used to create a raw, grungy image. There are flyers and posters on the walls advertising rock concerts and alternative bands; if they’re torn and a bit crumpled all the better. This raw, cutting edge look is not only cheap to emulate, it appeals to the teen market. Traditionally clothes would be displayed on hangers, mannequins or shelves. Today’s modern consumer can expect to see clothes and accessories hanging off ropes, hooks, ladders, pegs and more. There is always at least one on sale jumble pile in these stores for shoppers to rummage through. These mismatched heaps of clothing sell quickly, in a laid back way of course. Presenting stock in an unconventional manner creates the all important â€˜check that out’ factor that stimulates buying.
Another popular look that retailers emulate with their store decor is ethnic style. It is about embracing a bohemian vibe with burning incense, Buddha statues, dream catchers, crystals and Chinese lanterns. Although some retailers that go with this look are chain stores, the boho look has an appeal with shoppers seeking something a little bit different.
All these elements that comprise real life shopping, from what consumers see when they first walk in to when they walk out holding a carry bag, formulates the psychological effect of shopping, one that retailers use to their advantage knowing that it’s just not the same thrill shopping online. Still, today’s consumers are living in the world of technology; there is no escaping that for retailers, so there is a lean towards fusing the online and instore shopping experience together. Instore events, sales and pop up shops are announced on retailer websites and via social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. Most catalogues that shoppers can pick up in store feature a QR code that can be scanned using a smart phone. At the counter shoppers can sign up and join emailing lists to get news, special offers and competitions online. It’s a winning combination; while online shopping is surging in popularity and will continue to do so in this tech hungry world, there is still no underestimating the joys of real life retail therapy.