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European Update: When the Going Gets Tough…

It may have been a tricky year for retailers in Europe, but enthusiasm for new stores and display innovations has not wavered




In spite of what might look like a year of instability, and in a few quarters, upheaval, things in Europe in 2016 have actually been remarkably steady. As a group, retailers kept opening shops and testing new formats, whether it was a hairdryer brand launch courtesy of Dyson on London’s Oxford Street, or a new mid-sized convenience store from grocer Carrefour in Belgium.

The truth of the matter is that things have been tough and the response has been to provide shoppers with more reasons for heading in store, rather than battening down the hatches and hoping the storm will blow over.

Tech, in its broadest sense, has played a major part in all of this with e-tailers, such as young fashion outfits Missguided and Boohoo being among a cohort of new(ish) companies queuing up to clear the digital hurdle and set up physical shops. Brands, too, have been looking at malls and high streets as a means of boosting revenues, with the aforementioned Dyson and The Estée Lauder Companies opening temporary and permanent stores, among many others.

The bulk of the action, however, has been in food retail. Carrefour is in fact just one of a number of grocers that have been looking at what the word “convenience” actually means in a retail context, and coming to the conclusion that the days of the very big store are not numbered, but things have to change. Practically, this has meant in-store space being reconfigured with “fresh” being at the top of the agenda and general merchandise in the shape of TVs, white goods, and the like, being taken out of the mix.

A final word on fashion: This has been a very difficult year, owing in part to consumer uncertainty about nonessential purchases and unseasonably warm weather across much of Europe in the early fall.

But that’s all history. A new year awaits. Onwards and upwards.


John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.



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