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John Ryan

The Power of Two … or Perhaps Three or Four?

Is combining retail concepts a winning strategy?

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AS THE PHYSICAL retail climate has tightened across Europe (due in large measure to Covid, it makes online shopping seem a whole lot more attractive), moves appear to be afoot to counter reduced footfall. One of the foremost of these is the idea of teaming up with others, creating destinations.

Relay, the French travel retail outfit, has just opened a store at Montpellier Sud de France railway station in France’s southwest which shows the process in action. Normally, Relay is a travel convenience proposition – newspapers, books, confectionary and the like. In the Montpellier branch, however, this is teamed up with Monop’ Daily, a French food-for-now and food-for-later retailer (and an offshoot of mid-market department store Monoprix) and a travel version of skincare and beauty retailer L’Occitane en Provence.

The combination looks appealing and, owing to the nature of shopping requirements in a rail station, there is not quite the same requirement to have a full-line offer on display. The question is whether putting three into one like this adds up to a more enticing proposition proposal for the customer? From the outside looking in, it probably does and as all three are well-known brands, travelers seem likely to welcome the variety.

On a somewhat larger scale and in the U.K., fashion retailer Next has done more or less the same with Costa Coffee, Paperchase (a stationer) and Laura Ashley (home furnishings), among others, all taking space inside what was previously solely a modish offer. All of which does beg the question whether what we are looking at is the de facto evolution of a new kind of boutique hybrid department store – one that has happened almost by cooperative accident, rather than by design.

At a moment when department stores almost everywhere are feeling the breeze, we may be seeing the emergence of something similar, but different. It might be the wrong label to attach to all of this, but the effect is much the same.

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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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