The Future of Retail: four ways brands can drive footfall and sales

With reports of a decline in retail sales both online and in bricks and mortar stores, we investigate what businesses are doing to drive footfall and sales.

The challenges the British high street has faced in recent years have only increased – according to a report by Daniel Thomas & Daniele Palumbo for BBC News, there was a net decline of 104 fashion shops in the first half of 2018, with rising minimum wage and high business rates sharing the blame. But now it seems we are starting to see a decline in online sales too.

While some like Superdry have blamed a slow uptake on Autumn/Winter 2018 product on a too-long, unseasonably-hot summer, others blame the rise of huge trading moments such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which many consumers hold out for when it comes to spending on winter wardrobes, beauty products and Christmas gifting.

It isn’t all doom and gloom of course, and there are many great success stories during this anything-but-stable time for retail. So what exactly are these brands doing to set themselves apart from the rest?

Collectible clothing

While for some, leftover stock each season is of course a concern, there are some brands who are experiencing the very opposite problem, they can’t keep product on shelves long enough, if at all. The collectable and resale market is booming, with heritage sportswear as well as collaborative brands really owning this space. According to eBay’s most-recent shopping report, there was a 76 percent increase in eBay sales of Champion sweatshirts in the last 90 days, and cult-favorite Supreme warranted 30,000 searches per day since January 2017. Five pairs of Virgil Abloh for Off-White’s sneakers are sold each hour on the platform too, at an average of $289 each. Creating collectable, limited run collections and partnering with other collectable brands and creatives will continue to yield the most-impressive sales going forward.

Social platforms can really propel the demand for these too, Burberry’s recently-launched limited edition range of t-shirts (priced £290) sold out in 24 hours after being promoted through social media apps for 24 hours in South Korea, the UK, Japan and China. Instagram Stories can help here too: Sophie Webster created a digital sample sale earlier this week where followers had to watch IG Stories to find a code, which then unlocked a sale which was password protected on site.

Conscious consumerism

It is no longer enough for a brand to offer just great product. Sure it helps, but connecting with customers’ values is proving to be a powerful brand marketing tool in 2018. US womenswear label The Reformation have always made sustainability the cornerstone of what they’re about, communicating on every touchpoint the environmental issues with various methods of fashion manufacturing and explaining in clever, witty language why theirs is a cut above the rest. And so, a cult dress label was born.

Being reactive in this space helps too, as proven by Content Beauty earlier this autumn. When Topshop cancelled author and activist Scarlett Curtis’ Feminists Don’t Wear Pink pop-up shop without notice, the beauty retailer stepped in to give their shop window to Penguin (the publisher), to help launch the book, and quickly moved to sell the book on their site too. “The Content team is made up of women. The majority of our brands are founded, owned and operated by women. The majority of our customers are women. As such, it is right that we support this book and make space for women’s voices to be heard, along with supporting this book’s mission to donate to the UN Women’s Foundation.”

Experiential retail

Brands that are weathering the storm with aplomb, are those committing to being more than just a shop: creating in-store and digital experiences to set themselves above the rest. Activewear brands are really leading in this area, staying true to the very DNA of what they’re all about, not just selling the lifestyle but creating it too. At Lululemon and Sweaty Betty there are free weekly yoga classes once the stores close, while at The North Face one can try out their new trail running shoes on a Saturday trail run, all organised by them and totally on the house.

Brands that choose to stay lean without permanent stores can still engage with customers in their community too via pop-up shops and events, which not only generate awareness but also prove successful at driving sales while customers are at their most-engaged.  Amazon Fashion last month ran a five-day pop-up shop in Marylebone with free consumer events all structured around the platform’s product pillars. One day saw yoga classes with Deliciously Ella, the next saw a panel chat with beauty influencers hosted by Vogue’s Jessica Diner with goody bags from Amazon Fashion’s beauty brands. London-based Pai Skincare host a monthly pop-up for their Chiswick HQ’s neighbours where W3 locals can shop 25% off on their lunch break and meet with their founder Sarah Brown for free skin consultations, not only creating a community but giving added-value from those money-can’t-buy extras.

Homeward bound

With restaurant and grocery delivery now a normal part of consumer behaviour, there is a new opportunity to work with or alongside those services to be part of these private, offline experiences too. Spotify have seen brands collaborate on playlists for non-premium members, such as supermarket chains sponsoring cooking or dinner party playlists, or beauty brands jumping on getting-ready/pre-drinks playlists on Saturday nights. Speaking to customers at home, without distractions allows brands to cut through the noise in-feed, or inbox, where over half (55%) of shoppers ignore digital newsletters because of inbox overload.

Ikea conducted a poll to find 90% of its customers prefer to stay in at weekends, so has partnered with Uber Eats to bring its famous Swedish Meatballs to people’s homes instead, as of this weekend. British charity Missing People has also partnered with Deliveroo this week to launch a campaign to help find missing people ahead of Christmas. According to Sky News via The Brief, five hundred of Deliveroo’s drivers will display missing person posters on their backpacks and a new donation feature, Ride to Find, has been added to the app.

So clearly there isn’t just one, fail-safe way to weather the harsh retail climate that 2018 has served up for brands. Regarding physical stores, The Chancellor presented his Budget to Parliament last month, promising over £1.5 billion to support the high street. According to Gov.uk small retail businesses can expect business rates bills cut by a third for two years from April 2019, saving them £900 million. And for brands both online and offline, staying focused on giving customers the experiences, tools and tech to make their lives better, will help businesses stand the test of time.