Retail Re-imagined. Six Trends Shaping The Way We Experience Retail

Andrea George, Head of Retail and Leisure at Bruntwood

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The retail world is a rapidly evolving place. It moves fast and changes constantly. That’s what makes it such an exciting sphere to work in and is why, at Bruntwood, we’re focused on helping retailers to stay ahead of the latest consumer trends - to evolve and adapt with the market.

But our role isn’t just to meet the needs of the retailer. We also want to ensure that the neighbourhoods and places we’re creating offer the retail amenity that today’s shopper is looking for. Amazing shops, restaurants and social spaces can be the gel that create a destination and offer an lasting experience.

It’s something that we work hard to deliver every day, working closely with retail businesses, their customers and the people who live and work in the communities we develop.

So, what are the trends that we’re keeping track of as we create the retail space of the future? How is retail being re-imagined? Here are some key themes making an impact right now:

1. Taking it Offline - Big online retailers like Amazon have been using physical pop-up space and real-life events to boost customer engagement for a while and now the trend has caught on with smaller operators. At Bruntwood, we’re heavily involved with helping smaller online retailers to dip a toe into the world of bricks and mortar, as demonstrated by Hatch, our vibrant pop-up food, drink and retail destination on Manchester’s Oxford Road. Hatch lets established online traders trial a physical presence in a high-footfall area without the need to commit to a long-term shop lease. It’s the perfect solution for smaller, independent e-retailers who want to try out that shop-front interaction with customers and it’s already worked brilliantly for the likes of own-label jewellery and branded Nordic lifestyle specialist, Nordic Muse, which is using a residency at Hatch as the final pillar for the business alongside e-commerce, wholesale, and artisan market features.

2. Experience Counts – Harking back to Hatch, as an urban community hub, the scheme has also been developed to tap into the ‘experiential’. With a regularly rotating program of traders and live events, Hatch constantly offers fresh and original food, drink and shopping experiences. Customer loyalty can be a challenge in the industry so keeping it fresh is essential to draw people back again and again. Today’s consumers want something out of the ordinary from their shopping trips and this is why so many retailers are moving into the ‘experiential’ sphere – using physical space, where it’s less about products on shelves and more about added value experiences and services. Shoppers visiting Hatch can immerse themselves in a range of experiential ‘happenings’ such as tasting experiences from retailers, music events, exclusive classes and recitals. It offers a whole new level of engagement with visitors for the retailers based there, encouraging longer dwell-time and meaningful brand interaction.

3. Ethical Matters- The new generation of shoppers is driving demand for ethical shopping and the sustainability credentials of a retailer mean more than ever. Brands that want to succeed will need to showcase their ethical commitment in terms of products, services and the physical space they inhabit. It’s something Bruntwood is very conscious of and is a big focus for us at the minute. Sustainability is a priority and we want to work with innovative and sustainable retailers and food and drink customers. At Hatch, for instance, we have a no plastics on site policy in place. Charity shops also remain an important retail source for community-conscious shoppers but even they are being re-imagined, with bright, spacious ‘boutique’ style stores like Mary Portas’ Living & Giving charity shops for Save the Children leading the way.

4. Insta Power – If your product or retail space doesn’t have social media appeal, you’re missing a trick. Modern shoppers like to ‘share’, which can be great for brand engagement. Retailers are now capitalising on this by creating photo-ready features and instagrammable moments. Dirty Martini in Manchester is a perfect example, with its neon angel wings, allowing guests the chance to pose for a picture and ‘get their halo dirty!’ This again, relates to the overall ‘experience’ shoppers enjoy in a space and is high on the list of considerations for many of the retailers and food and beverage specialists we work with.

5. Technology Revolution – Technological developments are having an enormous impact on the evolution of both online and offline retail. From contactless mobile payment to GPS enabled shopping trolleys that direct you to your groceries, technology is set to add convenience and speed to shopping trips. With customers used to being able to access a wealth of information on any product, via the internet, in an instant, retailers are having to consider how to offer this level of detail and guidance in-store and we can expect to see more digitally enabled stores that utilise interactive touch-screens in the future.

6. Community Centred – Retail is taking on a new role as the boundaries continue to blur between where we live, work and play. Mixed-use developments are on the increase and retail is a central part of these burgeoning 21st century communities. At our Circle Square neighbourhood in Manchester, fresh, independent retail amenities will help to inject vibrancy, as well as being a place for people to discover new experiences. And we’re also using pop-up retail units in our workspace developments to enhance the workplace environment for the people who use it, while enabling entrepreneurial retailers the chance to boost brand engagement via a temporary physical space. These new outlets are giving traders a chance to refine their experiential offering, ensuring they’re hitting the mark for today’s demanding consumers.

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