It’s been easy for observers in recent years to conclude that the High Street is dying. Headlines have focussed on high profile closures and restructures, and the unstoppable growth of online shopping. With pressure mounting on all sides, many have wondered just how long traditional bricks and mortar retailers can hold out against the virtual onslaught.
But the reality, as Primark’s new flagship store shows, isn’t quite as black and white. It seems some retailers are tapping into people’s need to still go shopping – and are making the store a real destination, without having to go cross-channel yet.
A lot of fanfare surrounded the opening of the new “posh” Primark. The four-floor, 82,400 sq ft store has 1,443 employees, 111 cash desks and 92 fitting rooms. It’s the fifth largest Primark in the UK and the seventh largest in the company. It’s a confident statement of intent – something echoed in the decor.
The interior features exposed brick walls, enormous LED screens and a dark “theatrical” space. It’s not what you’d expect from a chain with a core value of selling up-to-date fashion at affordable prices. In fact, it’s verging on high-end fashion spaces – such as Burberry’s own flagship store, also newly opened and just a stone’s throw away. We may not see RFID and smart interactive mirrors in Primark just yet, but the technology is in place to create an enjoyable, engaging in-store experience.
And it’s hugely successful. The team tasked with opening the new London store (its 244th in total) will be packing up the ribbon and novelty scissors and heading off to Austria this week. Then Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal…
At BT Expedite, we manage Primark’s sites and take care of the software, hardware and IT infrastructure that underpins its day-to-day store operations. It’s a seamless end-to-end service with one helpdesk number to keep everything simple for the retailer, and we manage all calls through to completion.
And here’s the thing. Primark doesn’t have a transactional website. It’s not jumping on the multichannel technology bandwagon. It has a highly successful model and it’s choosing technology that helps support, enhance and replicate this model. The multichannel route, at the moment, isn’t necessarily the investment with the best return.
So sexy in-store iPads, complex ‘click and collect’ decisions and bewildering delivery options aren’t on the agenda just now. Primark is choosing a path that puts a focus on in-store availability, value for money, efficiency and now, in-store experience. That’s why choosing the right technology is so important. It’s all about finding the right formula for you and your market and focusing on the technology that makes a difference for your business. For Primark, that means getting the essentials right and ensuring the operational excellence customers expect.
The thousands who flock to the retailer’s new store openings would seem to suggest that Primark has made the right choice, as you can see from this amateur video recording of a recent store opening in Hanover, Germany.
By Josh Pert, CEO – BT Expedite & Fresca