Money

Retail Reboot: How Are Shops Changing To Survive?

Some retailers (yes, we’re looking at you Gerry Harvey) love to complain about how online shopping is destroying their business. But change is a continuous force in retail, and constant reinvention has been a requirement long before building a web site become important as well. Just how well do some recent shop revamps stack up, and will they seduce you into spending more money?

Evidence abounds that online shopping is becoming more important to Australians. The ABS says local stores managed to flog $143 billion in goods in a year (though that figure includes wholesale and manufacturing, not just sales to consumers). We’re also getting keener on shopping via our mobile phones, and in recent times we’ve got keen on buying from overseas to take advantage of the strong Australian dollar (though that hasn’t worked quite as well recently). Heck, even Mr Harvey is having a go.

But no matter how important online shopping becomes, very few of us are going to do absolutely all our purchasing online any time soon. Some goods we want to see before we buy them, and some can be more expensive if we get them delivered (fruit and vegetables come to mind). Some stuff we want straight away, without waiting; some items are far too expensive to have delivered (think heavy items of hardware), and US stores still make an annoying habit of refusing to deliver overseas.

So it seems there will be a place for conventional retailers for some time yet, and they’ll have to battle with each other as well as with the mysterious unspecified web-connected masses. One of their key competitive strategies is to redesign and relaunch their stores, creating a point of difference from rivals.

Retailing in Australia is increasingly dominated by large chains rather than individual outlets, but that doesn’t mean the large chains can rest on their laurels. Whether launching into new markets or redesigning existing stores, there’s a constant cycle of reinvention going in, and quite possibly in a suburb near you. With $20 billion in retail turnover in Australia in a month (according to the ABS), there’s a lot at stake.

Over this Retail Reboot mini-series, I’ll be looking at three recent examples of how retailers have taken a different approach to building and managing new stores. I’ll be assessing what appeals in those stores (based on a personal visit, not as a member of the media, but as an ordinary shopper), and what is essentially designed to get you spending more money without necessarily getting better value. Obviously, that’s only going to represent one person’s view, so comments from readers will be welcome, as always. We’ll kick off tomorrow by checking out Masters, the new Woolworths-backed hardware chain that recently opened its first outlet in Melbourne and is launching a bunch more branches in Queensland this week. See you then!

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