Physical Retail is not dead, how the fashion industry should harness online and offline channels
There is a new trend called ‘e-tail to retail’ or ‘clicks to bricks’ that is proving that the future of luxury commerce lies in both an online and physical world.
Where once there was a fear that the high street would be abandoned by retailers in favour of online stores, there is now a realisation that hands-on shopping is also the key to a business achieving its full potential. This is especially true in sectors such as luxury goods and high-end fashion, where it is important for customers to be able to try on, feel, examine and truly experience what the merchandise has to offer.
A survey in America looked at the shopping habits of young people aged between 18 and 25 years and discovered that 68 per cent of them preferred to visit physical stores when buying shoes or clothes. The research was carried out by LIM College and America’s National Retail Federation.
Combining an online and physical presence
So while the trend was once for physical retailers to move into the online marketplace, there is now a reversal going on as well. For example, online-born menswear specialists Orlebar Brown, the creator of the now-famous swimming shorts James Bond actor Daniel Craig wore in Skyfall, has opened three physical shops in London. Another example is the Astley Clarke jewellers, which is seeing online growth but has still opened a London showroom and supplies several British department stores.
As well as using conventional stores, some e-commerce retailers are opening what are being called guide shops, which allow would-be buyers to try on the merchandise but then order their choices for home delivery.
This also works in reverse, with many brands utilising ‘bricks and clicks’ retail that allows customers to order online and pick-up purchases in store. This offers convenience, along with further sales opportunities when the customer arrives to collect.
Other brands, such as luxury fashion retailer The Symphony boutique in Dubai, are also utilising both physical and online mediums to create the optimum experience for customers across the world. Many experts believe that the focus on internet retailing in recent years has actually made physical shops more appealing to the customer.
A successful luxury or high-end fashion brand must understand that combining a physical and internet presence is vital in catering for customers’ varied shopping preferences – online is convenient, while a visit to a store can be a sensory experience.
Staffing for success
Staff members in physical shops will need differing skills to those working in e-commerce, reflecting the differences in shopping practices and requirements. Recruitment can be done by individual businesses or by employing the services of professional recruitment consultants who have an in-depth knowledge of the luxury retail sector.
Staff members will be the human face of the brand and will need to have a deep understanding of the luxury or high-end fashion industry as a whole, along with specific business and product knowledge.
Successful applicants will have a passion that is evident to all, and because of the nature of luxury retail, they will have an understanding of the ethos and heritage of some of the world’s most renowned and prestigious brands.
They will also need experience and expertise in relevant sectors of the industry, from ready-to-wear garments and leather goods to shoes and accessories, and be impeccably presented. Communication skills are vital and, in an ever-shrinking world, language skills are increasingly becoming important assets, along with international experience within a global industry.