Doug Barber discusses the clicks to bricks trend:

With an increasing amount of consumers choosing to shop online rather than in-store, it could be assumed that the future of the high street is looking bleak – however, as previously mentioned on this blog – a selection of online retailers are now choosing to take their brands offline – moving from ‘clicks to bricks’ by opening their first brick and mortar stores, to inject some much needed vitality back into the heart of high street.

Simply Be and Jacamo on Oxford Street

This year Barber Design was proud to be a part of this trend, with the design and implementation of Simply Be and Jacamo’s first flagship store on Oxford Street; bringing their online plus sized clothing range to one of London’s busiest high streets. As part of the strategy Key elements were brought into the retail environment to emulate the online experience. The store concept is also being rolled out to other strategic locations across the UK.

In an interview earlier this year, Angela Spindler, the chief executive of the NBrown group who own the Simply Be and Jacamo brands stated the intent behind the planned store openings:

“The reason for us opening stores is not because we want to maximise retail sales, it is because we want to maximise online sales.”

Simply Be and Jacamo are not alone in seeing the benefits of moving to brick and mortar stores, Nasty Gal, the incredibly successful American online fashion retailer opened their first store in Los Angeles this year. A 3,500 square foot retail space featuring a selection of apparel, intimates, accessories, tech and gifts, alongside vintage pieces, a magazine library, a live cactus garden and a shoe salon. The founder and chief executive described the move:

“We are engineering sharable moments, both visual and experiential, into our stores. We are creating real-life social media by engaging the community we have built purely online. Where that goes is truly limitless.”

Many retailers are following suit and offering more than just retail in store; striving to make the most of their physical stores. An on going trend for the ‘experiential in retail’ is helping build brand recognition and engage with consumers within the whole shopping experience which online shopping inherently lacks.

Urban Outfitters’ Space Ninety 8 concept in Brooklyn, New York, brought together it’s tried and tested retail model alongside a market place for local designers merchandise, a restaurant, bar, gallery, and rooftop garden. Creating a space for people to not only shop but also stay and enjoy the entire brand experience.

Larger retailers are not the only ones to develop such local services in store, Rapha a previously online company developed their stores, called Rapha Cycle Clubs, to be inspiring meeting places for local cycle enthusiasts first and a retail store second; successfully positioning their brand as a hub for the sport within the community. The addition of an instore café providing quality food and beverages as well as live streaming of racing provides a shopping experience that isn’t possible online.

Increased physical presence on the high street can directly impact online sales too, John Lewis saw investment in their physical stores lead to a 30 percent rise in local online sales. This same investment can also help smaller companies and start-ups gain presence online through having pop-up stores in key locations. It can be very difficult to get noticed online and reach the right consumers, but having a pop-up store – even for a short time – will give shoppers tangible brand interaction which may result in them sharing their experience of going there by tweeting or sharing an image online, leading to an increased online presence.

Although there is an increasing amount of people choosing to shop online, some 95% of all retail sales are captured by retailers with bricks and mortar presence. With experiential shaping the future of retail design, online retailers have much to gain from taking their brands offline and connecting with consumers in a way that their online offerings simply can’t achieve. This opens up exiting opportunities for retail designers as now any online brand serious about maximizing their brand values is coming to the high street with some fresh thinking and is dedicating space to ‘the customer experience’. Traditional retailers are following suit and allowing space for customers to play, relax and interact with their brand. Rather than the demise of the high street we are looking at the birth of ‘true retail innovation’ across multi channel platforms.