The new retail dynamic

The evolution of stores and shopping in Australia is part and parcel of the story of European settlement. As far back as the 1800’s ‘going shopping’ was still a relatively new social concept although cities and towns rapidly formalised to offer residents and visitors greater leisure and retail opportunities.
New settlers continued to bring their diverse cultural traditions with them, buying goods from home producers, street-sellers or at the wharf or market-place. With the first purpose-built shops beginning to appear in Britain and Europe from the early nineteenth century, emergent colonial societies at the outposts of the Empire quickly followed suit.

For these early consumers, the shopping experience was a special occasion – a trip to town, dressed in their Sunday best to marvel at the spectacles presented in shop windows, combined with the anticipation of a special purchase. The nostalgic smells, sounds and emotions of these vibrant experiences (for example corner shops with their tempting arrays of sweets or tins of biscuits) is still powerful and evokes memories of a time when shopping was far less complex and sophisticated but when the experience was at its most pure.

Since these early beginnings and for most of subsequent retailing history, the physical bricks and mortar environment has provided both the focus and the context for customer engagement. As economies evolved, established brands in all major countries developed large retail store chains and distribution networks. Competition was based on the traditional marketing pillars of price, product, place and promotion with the scale and resources of bigger organisations providing strong competitive advantage. As time progressed, independent retailers rapidly lost ground to both the shopping centre and the national (and international) chains as consumers sought the convenience of location and the confidence of the big brands.

But all this is rapidly changing. The new dynamics of the global retail economy are arguably threatening traditional store environments, as shoppers increasing turn to alternative channels like the internet to browse, compare and ultimately purchase. Faced with this evolution, it is essential for bricks and mortar retailers to revisit the principles and practices of in-store consumer engagement and to understand in greater detail how their physical store environments can be leveraged to optimum effect to ensure sales optimisation, customer satisfaction and sustainable profitability.

This is an extract from The Retail Acument Series. To read more click here.