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Will 'little Britain' mean little shops

Habitat and the miniaturisation of physical commerce

Quarters of the European press is lamenting Brexit as 'little Britain' but will this spill over into Britain's retail sector; it's been a topic of debate over the last few weeks but smaller won't necessarily mean worse. 

Increasing commercial rents in Britain's key shopping districts (predominantly in city centres) and inability to fully stock and merchandise limited shop floor space with entire brand ranges has seen Sainsbury's owned Habitat open its first 'micro store' in Leeds.   

Customers will be able to use the in-store giant screens, alongside iPads to browse the entire 4000+ SKU range from Habitat that would be impossible to fit into most stores. 

This is not totally unique, House of Fraser launched an iPad only concept store in Aberdeen in 2011 where no physical stock resides; customers browse ranges with a click-and-collect format in operation. Again, this has never been totally unique, it was the premise Argos (also Sainsbury's owned) was built on after they evolved from a catalogue only service.

The future of our highstreet

At Aulter this is a trend we believe will continue, especially when considering the impact of transformational technologies, whether it's 3D printing services, rising rents, an appetite for tailored or personalised ranges... ultimately retailers and brands simply cannot house everything under one roof, for every customer at every branch. There is no one size fits all solution. Same day delivery, click-and-collect services are simply not a reality from many locations given the current model and courier arrangement. 

This has unfortunately produced many fragmented experiences for customers from one brand to another, whether a pure play eCommerce fulfilment brand or a multi-channel retailer; experiences are varied between brands and utterly dependent on location and availability.

Zara offer a fantastic omni-channel solution; every SKU available online and distributed with at least 24 hour delivery via a 3rd party logistics vendor (a nice way of saying from a huge warehouse). Their app allows customers to search product availability and size via location services for the nearest stores; this is however where the experience breaks down and can become increasingly frustrating. 

Why are the products I want never available at my nearest store? Why are they not in the colours I want? Why are they always available at a store another 20 miles away, what's the difference, deliver them to my nearest store! The reasons for this are of course analysed and reflective of most BI solutions being deployed and will no doubt be the most cost efficient methods. Individual customers don't care about that.

On the flip side, retailers biggest loss is incurred with online fulfilment, roughly 30% of products purchased are returned. Even worse, customers unsure on sizing will purchase 2/3 items of the same product knowing they'll return a couple creating a huge hole for logistics teams to negate with a vast spectrum for anomalies to arise in their data sets, marketing, procurement and strategic planning.

Balance is healthy?

Striking a balance in demand and supply in such an overly saturated, competitive and transparent market, in a world where a retailers inventory is fully accessible for the public may no longer be the key to unlocking customer happiness. 

If loyal customers can see that other customers have access to a larger and more covetable range of product based purely on location, it could see them begin to look elsewhere in frustration. Likewise product ranges are not hard to come by, similarities in ranges have become intellectual property headaches for the courts in recent months and customers are not going to care one iota who's copyrights they're maybe, or maybe not infringing upon. 

If you'd like to discover what more in-depth possibilities are currently available for your stores and own brand practises then drop a line to to see what solutions can facilitate an improved customer experience.

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