Last week I was back in ol’ London town, the timing was perfect for the annual turning on of the retail Christmas lights and Guy Fawkes bonfire night. Stepping into the retail space these were my top 5 takeaways.
1. Both retailers and consumers have fully embraced omni-channel: Click&Collect is not a concept either still in debate to adopt or starting out but a fully operational and assumed service. Most retailers, especially fashion and food have specific collection points fully utilised, alongside pure-play retailers like ASOS also offering this service at different points across London.
2. Apple Pay has a strong and gaining presence: Where we are only just adopting the Opal travel card, London is phasing out their equivalent Oyster card. London has always been far more accommodating in the transactional space for the customer, where you can split bills across multiple cards and the minimum £10 card transaction doesn’t exist (or at least across my travels). Australian restaurants, cafes and corner shops have drilled it into me to always carry cash, whereas in London you can now directly swipe your bank card pretty much everywhere from the tube and buses to a sub-£1 Boots retail transaction. And Apple Pay payment points, whilst not entirely everywhere, are gaining ground with their symbol already in many major retailers.
3. Collaborations are ever present: We’re no stranger to collaborations, as demonstrated by the hugely successful H&M Balmain hook-up in recent weeks; but Nike is pushing the envelope in London, they are everywhere! Their presence was both bespoke and unique across most retailers from a store within store at premium department store Liberty’s to a curated range for &other stories. The key thing for Nike is to not replicate its experience across stores and brands, the selected range of products worked directly and uniquely within the various retail spaces and for niche customer cohorts.
4. History and grandure is embraced whilst achieving a modern flex: The likes of Harrods and Selfridges have something that modern retailers find hard to emulate, a long history demonstrated through their heritage buildings, experience and retail environment. From the moment you pass through the heavy ornate porticos you’d expect the decadence and opulence to permeate, however these retail space are anything but staid… they are ultra-modern, yet stylishly moody. Fashion is focused with the likes of Harrods’ Fashion Lab or Selfridges’ Denim Studio, yet all are well balanced with deftly complimentary beauty services or MAC sales points and food services littered throughout. It could just be the Sydney girl in the big city effect but it all feels lux, understated and modern all at once.
5. This Christmas it’s all about personalisation: We are seeing it locally too, but for the guy or gal that has everything, the retail world has come to the rescue with gift personalisation. Selfridges has really embraced this with multiple on the spot personalisation hubs for wrapping paper and santa sacks to its shop by star sign gifting suggestions. The buzz and smells created through the screen printing of hessian santa sacks and Mr Men merchandise gives the gift giver a unique and thoughtful high-value-engineered edge during this years Christmas annual scrummage.
And for a bonus take away, I think the international one to watch is & other stories, brought to you by the H&M parent. They are doing everything right, from its fashion and beauty range to the store presentation and Nike intergration. No doubt they will be hitting the Australian shores in the near future.
Overall we love London and the retail innovation it continues to deliver.