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John Ryan

The Store is the Star

It’s about making the shop the best place for consumers to spend their time

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Last week saw a gathering in Madrid of retail’s great and good at the World Retail Congress and among the myriad speakers and presentations, two things seemed to have prominence. The first was the notion that stores should be places where emotional engagement takes place. It was not entirely clear what this actually meant, but it’s a pretty fair bet that what’s involved is retailers being loved by their shoppers.

All good, but tell me something I don’t know. Given the choice that is out there on the high street it seems reasonable to assume that for the majority of people “emotional engagement” doesn’t mean much more than choosing one shop over another. This in turn translates as a winning store environment, stock that demands to be bought and prices that are suitable. Or put yet another way, it’s our old friend “right thing, right place, right time.” The idea that emotional engagement is something new has therefore a distinct whiff of the emperor’s new clothes about it.

The second point that many seemed to view as a vital part of their retail DNA was the belief that selling stuff was probably secondary to having a human point of view, being part of a community working for a better world, or perhaps offering spaces in order that all and sundry can take up yoga.

Perhaps, but it is hard to escape the fact that without sales nothing works and if all of the good things that are being espoused are in fact about getting more shoppers through the doors, then perhaps it’s a rather cynical attempt to capture the mood of the moment, rather than retail philanthropy.

More attention should be paid to making shops better places for consumers to spend time in. The store’s the star, nothing else. Even the Internet can’t replace it, for the time being.      

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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