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What independent retailers can learn from the reopening of Australia’s luxury stores

Despite shoppers and retailers alike hoping for a swift return to normal post-COVID, the reality in terms of what will greet them when the retail dawn arrives will look – initially, anyway – a little different. As retailers adapt to the ‘new normal’, they’ll need to understand that traditional ways of operating might not be feasible, so it’s important they take inspiration from unusual places in the pursuit of competitive advantages.

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You may have noticed that a number of high-end luxury retailers such as Prada, Hermes and Montblanc, either reopened their doors weeks ago, or continued to operate throughout the pandemic. The secret to this lies at the heart of the luxury shopping experience – for years, luxury retailers have designed their stores with social distancing in mind to create a luxurious, exclusive experience. This is what has made it either safe for them to remain open, or able to reopen early, and independent retail businesses may be able to learn from their tactics going into the new retail spring. We’ve taken some tips from these high-end stores that could help drive foot traffic in a post-coronavirus retail landscape.

Promote exclusivity

In retail, the allure of exclusivity is powerful. When Chanel confirmed that it would increase prices during the pandemic, shoppers in South Korea fell in line outside its stores. While not every retailer has the allure and brand perception of Chanel, there’s something to be said for the power of exclusivity and a high perceived value. If it makes sense for your business, promote exclusivity around your brand. Perhaps this involves offering a limited range of a particular line so that once it sells out, it’s gone, or promoting products that only you have. If you have exclusive, sought-after products, ensure the right people know about it.

Reposition your existing merch

Not every retailer can sell face masks and other timely products, but you can still be relevant to your customers if you position your items correctly. Consider how you can market your current stock for the needs and wants of shoppers in the current landscape. For instance, if you sell clothing, why not position your range as loungewear, or something to wear while people are working from home. Designer Tory Burch created her Tory Sport label to provide customers with activewear and loungewear, perfect for days spent at home during lockdown. Selling home or kitchenware? Start getting in front of people who are baking during the pandemic.

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Focus on health and safety

If you want to encourage customers into your stores, ensure they feel safe and comfortable. To do so, consider limiting the number of people allowed in store at any one time. Depending on your business model, you could introduce appointments, like Louis Vuitton, instead of encouraging walk-ins. If this is something you explore, ensure to schedule each appointment with ample time between customers so you and your team can thoroughly clean before the next shopper comes in.

Spruce up your window displays

Compelling window displays can captivate customers and entice them to check out your store. When you reopen your business, be sure to come up with attention-grabbing displays that are attractive and timely. Often, window displays are a customer’s first interaction with a store, so make a good first impression. High-end fashion retailers do this particularly well, so look out for what they do and see how you could translate that to your store.

Let your customers know

Luxury brands tend to know their top customers and their shopping preferences well, and often have extensive marketing databases to offer exclusive and special promotions. If you haven’t already, now is the time to organise your customer lists and send out emails informing customers of your reopening plans and how your business is conforming with health and safety requirements.

Whether you’re still in partial lockdown or have already reopened, it’s likely your foot traffic will look a little different in a post-restriction world. To keep customers coming through the door, seeking inspiration from those around you, including your high-end retail counterparts, will be more important than ever. Remember, spring is coming. It’s time to gear up.

Dave Scheine is managing director for APAC at Vend