As the world emerges from a pandemic haze, retail customers are being subject to new and seemingly endless price hikes and squeezes on product availability in some market sectors – it is undoubtedly a turbulent time. Yet it is often the case that in times of uncertainty comes the greatest innovation.
During lockdown, shopping habits changed – possibly forever. We found new ways to shop (mostly online or within our community) and while some small businesses and high street retailers closed their doors for the last time, others found exciting and innovative strategies that would transform how we shop forever.
In the first six months of 2021, over 8,700 UK chain stores shut up shop(1). Yet the demise of these household names has presented new opportunities. Landlords, for example, have turned to new and creative ways to fill these empty spaces, leading to a new emergence of pop-up shops and mixed use live/work/shop/eat and drink venues(2).
Existing retailers found ever-new creative ways to be there for their customers during the pandemic: experiential online shopping, outdoor dining and retailing, call and collect and local delivery services became mainstream. Shoppers bought locally and sought out new, greener and more bespoke products from smaller independent sellers, as we began to really think more about the environmental impacts, fuel miles, and the sustainability of the goods that we purchased.
These have all had a transformative effect on the retail sector, as it continues to metamorphosis and stabilise. For many, the way we live, and work has forever changed, with people now working from home some or all the time, providing a new work/life balance and alternative thinking about how, where, and when to shop. At the height of the pandemic, three quarters of respondents to a survey by Retail Gazette discovered a new-found appreciation of local grocers(3). Research from PWC in early 2021 showed that 62% of consumers felt that local shops added to a sense of community, while 43% said they would be happy for more retail spaces to be used as pop-up shops(4).
Meanwhile, independent retailers who set up businesses online during lockdown are now seeking out physical premises to finally give their customers in-person experiences.
When we had no choice but to shop online, we were denied the opportunity to browse shopping rails and enjoy the sensory experiences of shopping; touching fabrics, engaging with store assistants and whiling away our time in a social experience. Customers are now ready once more to seek out retail spaces where those needs are met. They demand choices in where they spend their money, often preferring to support local small businesses, rather than faceless corporations. Yet choice, convenience and value remain at the fore of this new era of shopping.
Local, independent shops need to rapidly gain traction to succeed and build upon the momentum they gained. Retail spaces and shop designs need to be simple, easily configured and easy to set up and dismantle. Shop fittings need to look attractive and eye-catching yet be practical and sturdy. Displays need to be easy for people to see what is on offer and to be able to touch and engage with the products for sale. And of course, shop fittings need to be affordable too.
Shopfitting Warehouse is the perfect partner for any business on their growth journeys. From small, local convenience stores to pop-up fashion, many businesses have shifted from being pure-play retail, to also offering click and collect, or delivery. This needs to be accommodated with well-configured spaces for stock picking, packing and distribution. Every square foot of space needs to be well organised and efficient, to adequately balance those changing needs, as customer demands for what they expect from retailers continues to drive forward the market in new and exciting ways.
Your Trusted Partner
Whether its racking and storage, front of house display, behind the scenes shelving or eye-catching display equipment, having a retail partner who offers a high level of support, planning and business services with excellent aftersales care is one way to ensure a competitive advantage. From fitting or reconfiguring space in the small confines of an established store, or easy to build, reconfigure and move mobile solutions, the only limit is your imagination!
Contact us for more details, advice and support.