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STORE SPACES

Trending Stores: EE, London

BY CSA Staff

The U.K.’s biggest mobile operator, EE, offers customers an immersive experience at its updated “showcase” store concept.

The format, created by retail design consultancy Quinine, highlights the company’s network, products and services while moving the brand beyond traditional mobile into the “quad” play sector. (Quad play describes U.K. providers that provide broadband internet access and television, fixed land line phones along with dual-mode mobile phones that can switch automatically to use Wi-Fi networks when they are in range.).

The format marries human behavior with the physical environment to give a multi-layered experience that invites customers to get involved with the latest technology and network innovations. Along with exploring the latest mobile devices, customers can try live products such Google Home and Samsung’s VR headsets.

“We based the store concept around an aesthetic called “show time”, a theatrical design language, which uses a large scale and proportion with dramatic lighting for all product displays and service experiences,” said Ian Johnston, founder of Quinine. “At the same time we were keen not to make it appear ‘hard-edged’ and too technological. We softened the space by adding more raw and human elements and introduced a conversational tone of voice.”

Entering the store, customers are greeted with EE’s showcase stage, a multi-functional display space that can be used for a variety of physical and digital experiences. Associates EE use the large digital screens and display props to engage with customers and encourage interaction with technology. The plan is for the installations to change out every three to six weeks, keeping the store fresh and the content current and relevant.

In other store highlights, a dedicated “Help Hub” customer service area and experiential zones give customers the chance to get a hands-on experience with the latest tech. Digital projections behind the Help Hub show animated icons that tell service stories.

In order to increase customer dwell time and provide more opportunities to browse new products and services, traditional devices (mobile devices and tablets) are located at the back of the store. An illuminated wall and dramatic oversized product displays maintain the focus and lure customers to browse, select and compare.

A simple materials palette creates a warm, familiar but modern feel throughout the space. European white oak and felt-like upholstered seating indicate service areas. While metal, powder coated in the brand colors (aqua and yellow), pop and lift a subtle palette of grey, black and white walls.

Dynamic signage helps customers navigate the space and adds a fresh and friendly tone. A brand wall features a local hand drawn sketch of the area, with icons to underline the network capabilities, directly connecting the store to the local community.

To date, EE’s showcase format has been rolled out in five locations, with three in London, including Westfield Stratford City and Westfield White City.

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The most ‘inspiring’ stores are…

BY Marianne Wilson

Physical stores still provide a compelling retail experience — if done right.

That’s according to a new report by digital commerce agency Astound Commerce, in which 73% of consumers said they visit stores to touch and feel products. The report, “S.O.S” or “Save Our Stores,” combines the results of a 1,000 U.S. consumer survey with a mystery shopping analysis of 24 top retailers.

“The overwhelming narrative in retail today is that the physical store is on the decline, and that selling on Amazon and investing in ecommerce is the only way to be profitable,” said Lauren Freedman, senior VP of digital strategy of Astound Commerce. “However, our report found that from a consumer standpoint, a brick-and-mortar presence is still valuable for retailers. Retailers that have shifted their strategy to provide an engaging retail experience will stay afloat in the shifting tides toward digital.”

According to the report, retailers that best met customer expectations offered a mix of inspiring shopping experiences, valuable promotions, engaging customer service, and an efficient shopping experience.

Here are some highlights of the report:

• Inspiration: To maintain foot traffic in physical stores, retailers must ensure shoppers have compelling reasons to visit.

Apple, Nike, Sephora, Victoria’s Secret, Crate and Barrel, and Gap received the highest “inspiring” scores, with a strong mix of digital signage, welcoming storefronts, and a focus on products.

• Customer service: Service is a key component of a brick and mortar strategy, but the results in this category were mixed. Sixty-four percent of consumers reported poor customer service as the top reason to leave a physical store. In the mystery shopping survey, shoppers were only greeted at 42% of stores upon arrival.

But some stores excel in customer service. Achieving a top score were Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Coach, Crate and Barrel, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GameStop, Gap, Nike, Sephora and Urban Outfitters.

• Efficiency: The average time to checkout was only 2.21 minutes, and 21% of retailers offered mobile point-of-sale systems in hopes of expediting transactions. Similarly, retailers have improved the returns process, which is often a source of frustration for consumers. The average time to return a product was 1.92 minutes, and several retailers offered a dedicated returns section to further improve this process.

“The role of the brick-and-mortar store has never been under more scrutiny, so it’s encouraging to see retailers employing a strategic mix of service, branding, efficiency and promotions to make the most out of the in-store experience,” Freedman added. “In 2018, retailers must be vigilant and ensure their stores have a clear purpose and inspire shoppers, otherwise they risk joining the more than 5,000 stores that closed in 2017.”

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Indochino in new brick-and-mortar expansion

BY Marianne Wilson

Indochino, the digitally-native made-to-measure menswear brand, continues to expand in the physical space.

The company, among the receipients of Chain Store Age’s 2018 Breakout Retailers Awards, will open four locations this spring, with three in Texas (The Galleria, Houston; The Domain, Austin; and Dallas), and one at SouthPark Mall, Charlotte, North Carolina, giving it a total of 24 sites across North America. The locations are four in a string of new showrooms slated for 2018, as the company continues to accelerate expansion.

The Charlotte store will open on February 23. Houston will launch on March 2, Austin on April 20, and Dallas on April 27. All four are located in business hubs close to Indochino’s target audience of young professional populations.

Indochino launched online before opening its first brick-and-mortar location in 2015. The company is looking to open in major cities across the U.S. this year, such as Atlanta, Denver and San Diego.

Indochino’s showrooms offer an immersive experience. Customers are designated their own personal stylist who assists them in designing their suit or shirt and helps them choose from millions of possible combinations of top-of-the-line fabrics and personalization options. Garments are then made to the customers’ precise measurements and shipped directly to their door within three weeks.

“Indochino was borne out of the belief that custom clothing should be available to everyone,” said Drew Green, CEO of Indochino. “Charlotte, Houston, Austin and Dallas are already home to thousands of customers who shop with us online and are strong ambassadors of the Indochino brand. We look forward to bringing the in-person showroom experience to them and many thousands of new customers in these great cities.”

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