Out & About: Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit 2018

Suppliers and retailers have once again gathered at the Radisson Blu in Stansted for the 2018 Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit. The two-day event sees suppliers and retailers paired up for face-to-face meetings, alongside a comprehensive seminar schedule and networking dinner in the evening.

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Kicking off the seminars on day one was Tim Radley, CEO of VM-Unleashed, who discussed 'Making sustainable profit from new store concepts, designs and re-fits'. 'Recognise the role of the store in an omnichannel world,' says Radley. 'Having a point of differentiation is more important than ever.'

He says retailers should clearly prioritise the brand propositions they want to deliver and excel in communicating these perceptions consistently to the customer. 'Every touchpoint is an opportunity to strengthen the brand and customer loyalty,' says Radley. 'Don't spend money on museums, spend on theatres!'

The importance of theatre was certainly a key theme of Radley's presentation. 'Spend money on creating amazing brand boxes and theatre.'

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Next to present was Dr Valerie Wilson Trower, lecturer at London College of Fashion, who explored luxury in VM. Following on from an article she wrote for August Retail Focus, Wilson Trower explored many examples of brands creating a sense of luxury in store, from the staircase at the London Waterstones flagship to the mix of colourful Italian marble in the Celine concession at Selfridges. Using several examples of established brands that span 100-plus years, she also noted that 'luxury need not only be from the past.'

She discussed how, as humans, we are programmed to be interested in any human actions, and used a previous window scheme at Barrie in Paris as an example, where three mannequins were holding a basket of linen and doing an every task – the washing.

Wilson Trower ended by stressing the importance of lighting within a store – something that Radley also mentioned. It can not only totally change the look and feel of a store interior and displays, but can also have a profound effect on skin tones in front of mirrors and in changing rooms. The lighting on Dior beauty counters for example will make customers look more healthy and glowing compared to some budget high street retailers. It's worth spending money in this area.

To sum up:

* Use quality woods and detailing
* Mix quality, old and new
* Add quality fixtures
* Use flowers – they convey a sense of freshness

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To round off day one, Alan Pegram, group managing director at Global Display and president of SDEA, presented 'Making the retail environments work harder'.

'The role of stores and their equipment suppliers is to create that experience and maintain that desire,' says Pegram.

He used several examples of retailers that are bridging the gap between online and offline, such as Joe Browns, primarily an online retailer which has now ventured into bricks & mortar with its first store located at Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield. He also mentioned the rise in sensorial experiences, such as L'Occitane's new flagship on Regent Street, as well as the increase in collaborations such as Kent & Curwen with David Beckham. 

As Pegram said, 'More walls please – bricks & mortar has a future.'

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Day two opened with a talk by Richard Askam, founder of WNC Limited, who discussed 'Personalisation: Changing the Retail Dynamics.' Personalisation has been around for a long, long time, of course, with such things as the Bayeux Tapestry. 'People keep homemade cards; it's the emotion that's gone into it,' says Askam. 'The emotive connection is the most important part.'

Askam said: 'Don't underestimate the need for the noise and the direction of the noise... Embrace personalisation – see what it can do for you not to you.'

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The closing speech for day two was by Tom Nathan, general manager at Hammerson's Brent Cross Shopping Centre, who discussed 'Is shopping in shops dead?' He outlined the main shopper types as follows:

1. I need it urgently
2. Entertain me
3. Advise me
4. I buy on a whim

We all know that tapping into as many of the human senses as possible can increase sales and the in-store customer experience, but physical stores allow retailers to tap into three of the five senses that online can't:

See - online only
Listen - online only
Touch - online and in store
Taste - online and in store
Smell - online and in store

'Blending technology with the store's human touch is the only way to deliver the omnichannel,' says Nathan. 'Male or female, you need the interaction.' Something similar to what Dr Valerie Wilson Trower mentioned in her talk on day one.

Almost 40 per cent of millenials shop at least once a week at a shopping centre. They also look for coffee shops/cafes at the centre, as well as the retail mix, fast food and entertainment. 'It's more than just shopping.' says Nathan.

He also notes the rise in food halls, such as Market Hall in Rotterdam and Eataly's offerings in such cities as New York, Milan and newest site, Bologna.

'Shops are alive and kicking,' he concluded.

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