The UK bricks-and-mortar retail scene is reinventing itself as a “brand experience” destination

Media in the UK like talking about the ‘death of the UK high street’, citing the perfect storm of instant delivery, ultra-convenience and lower costs enjoyed by online retail at the expense of the traditional bricks-and-mortar operation. Whilst the cost-benefit is undoubtedly skewed in favour of the virtual, the high street appears to be in the process of reinvention in a realm which the internet still struggles with: brand experience and product interaction.

In our research for our upcoming retail trends report, we’ve seen increasing evidence that bricks-and-mortar retailers are using more aggressive and innovative ways to reignite consumers’ desire to visit their stores and interact with brands. One of the trends that we have identified as having a drastic impact on the look of the UK high street is the increasing impetus on introducing experiential elements and a notion of theatre to stores.

Technology company Dyson, famous for its vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, recently opened its first dedicated retail space on Oxford street in a great example of how to implement theatrical and experiential elements to a physical store. Aimed at delivering elements of pleasure, inspiration and surprise, the store, which measures 3,230 sq ft over two floors, features hair styling stations where customers can test the newly launched Supersonic hairdryer and receive styling advice. It also stocks 65 Dyson products available for immediate purchase or home delivery.

We visited the store last month to experience it for ourselves and found that the interactive environment and focus on learning how the products work provided a great insight into the company’s design and engineering philosophy. It was also useful to test the products first hand. Moreover, the staff appeared to be very knowledge about the products available – although we were left disappointed with the demonstrator’s skills using the new Dyson hairdryer. For us, it highlighted that even in today’s digital era, interaction and communication with retail staff still plays an integral role in our experience with the brand.

dyson2 1 - Retail theatricals dyson1 - Retail theatricals

In the wine world, Tesco is one example of a major retailer testing out a more experiential format for customers, recently opening a pop-up wine bar in Soho in London to highlight their Finest brand, with the aim of changing perceptions and driving positive awareness towards the brand.

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The bar opened with a list of 70 wines for visitors to try, priced at £3-4 a glass. Wine flights, comprising three glasses of wine, are also available, to encourage visitors to discover new varieties and explore their preferences. Experts are also on hand to answer questions, recommend different vintages and to teach people about wine. We visited the bar whilst it was open and spoke to a few consumers when we were there, and most of them found that the experience drove a positive awareness of the Tesco brand overall and encouraged them to change their perceptions of the wines available in-store.

‘Trying the Finest wines from Tesco has made me start thinking about the economics of wine buying from the supermarkets point of view. I’m thinking that perhaps they actually get better value wines for their own wines as they have greater buying power, so perhaps I’ll actually get a better wine for my money out it?’

Male, Adventurous Connoisseur

‘I’m not usually a Tesco shopper – I tend to buy my wine from Waitrose and Sainsbury’s and even in these supermarkets, I just wouldn’t consider own-label. It just feels too basic somehow. Now I’ve tried some of the Tesco Finest wines today, I would consider buying some of the ones I’ve particularly liked, such as the Chilean Merlot which impressed me’

Male, Adventurous Connoisseur

Author: Kirsty Mainprize