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What are the 3 key themes making a big impact on London retail in 2022



Gina Brugh is RX's Merchandise, Process and Systems Design Specialist and Co-Founder of RetailO2 (our sister business). Gina is a naturally curious person who often asks the questions "no one else is game to." With her curious disposition, she ventured off to London in April for the Global Retail Technology Show....and she fitted in some time to check out retail across London and see what is going on.

 

After NZ finally reopened its borders to the world, I was lucky enough to head off to London for an international Retail Tech conference - as well as see firsthand what has been happening in the world of retail in London. Like the rest of the world, retail in London has been affected by the pandemic and high street retail is not quite back at pre-pandemic footfall numbers, stock is sparse and so are staff. There are a few closed doors on Oxford Street, but the good thing about London is that most retailers have their flagship store here making it easy to see a lot of amazing retail in a short period of time.

If I was going to sum up the most notable common themes among London retail, it would be – sustainability followed by diversity & inclusion. Not uncommon themes to the rest of the world currently, but London has taken each theme that little step further. There was way too much to cover, so here’s just a quick summary of the more notable examples.


Sustainability

This was present in all retailers and was not subtle, with sustainability being evident in multiple touchpoints throughout the store.

Primark is a good example of this, with sustainability not just present on a couple of standard touchpoints but embedded in everything they were doing and producing. This store is a great example of where historical goods were predominantly made in China and from unsustainable resources. Primark have gone full circle and made a vocal pledge with Primark Cares right across everything in the store

Primark will


  • Ensure all of its clothes are made using recycled or more sustainably sourced materials

  • Design its clothes so they can be recycled and strengthen their durability, so they last longer

  • Halve carbon emissions across its value chain

  • Pursue a living wage for workers in its supply chain

Not only does every item of clothing carry the logo ‘Primark Cares’ but it states what sustainable resource it is made from, where it is sourced from and that most sourcing is moving away from countries like China. They also have a recyclable bin at the front of every store promoting a circular economy to keep the world turning. You can put any clothes (they do not have to be Primark clothes) in and they will find a new home/use for them.

It is clear that they have a clear and determined sustainability objective embedded into their company strategy.


This sustainability message is present in most if not all retailers.

In Marks & Spencer it has become part of their DNA and features in everyday touchpoints throughout the store, from storytelling right through to being part of the product name.



Nike also has their Move to Zero program where they are moving to zero carbon and zero waste. This is featured on touchpoints throughout the store and on product labels. They

also offer a sneaker cleaning store in store to promote upcycling as opposed to throwing your kicks away. Here you can also change your laces and add some extra fashion pieces to give your sneakers a new lease on life.

The supermarkets were also on board with not only making claims around reducing plastic use but also the benefits of buying local from a carbon footprint reduction perspective.

Just as in New Zealand, plastic bags have been eradicated and products are coming out of packaging. German retailer Lidl had a Big On British campaign on at the time and this was throughout the store with the British Union Jack as the link. As it was the Queens Jubilee year too it was very on point, as well as showing their commitment to Britain.


Selfridges had probably the most outstanding display of sustainability and caring for the future with their “Let’s Change the Way We Shop” initiative. This 5-year initiative has been in market for almost 2 years now, where Repair, Refill, Recycle, Restore is how they define the New Retail. And WOW are they making a commitment to this - from the Sneaker Laundry, Pre-Loved Clothing racks, clothing repair section, rental of designer wear to the reinventing retail Project Earth commitment – it's everywhere.

When I was there the key theme was Superfutures - tomorrow in the making. They had set up a store-in-store, The Corner Shop, to convert plastic waste into new homewares (in this instance) on the spot, placing it on the shelf and selling it to the customer. Some items were even made to order so there was no waste at all! It was fascinating to watch as a large robot basically ate plastic and made a large floor standing vase in front of me. If you are over in London, make sure you do stop into Selfridges for a WOW.


This is the robot and some of the furniture pieces that it had made in-store.


Diversity & Inclusion

The other common theme throughout retail in London was diversity & inclusion. This was not as prolific as the sustainability theme, but it was certainly common among many retailers. This theme was mainly showcased in marketing touchpoints such as posters, video and mannequins.

Posters of models that represented people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicity and heights helped more people see that they could actually pull off that amazing dress or could squeeze into that activewear. Nike and Adidas did this very well, going the extra step by including a campaign with an intellectually handicapped girl and a runner mannequin with a prosthetic leg. There were mannequins of all different ethnicities and some with more fuller figures. Sure, there were still the slim mannequins and models that we have been used to seeing but it was well balanced out with diverse models.



On a side note, there was another message common to every retailer - “We Are Hiring”! As you walked into most retail stores the prime location of the landing zone would have the largest piece of marketing collateral in the store! A message clearly saying we are hiring and spelling out the benefits of working for them. The pandemic has clearly hit retailers very hard on the hiring front with the borders being closed. I have to say that service was not up to its normal standard in most retail stores that I visited. Store staff are thin on the ground as they try and build their workforce back up.

In conclusion? Doing good is good business!

Greenwashing is not an option – sustainability is here to stay.

Diversity and inclusivity are a crucial long-term strategy for customer engagement.

And protect and love your staff – they truly are now as rare as hen’s teeth!


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Gina is the RX go-to expert on everything systems, process and automation design. With a background in marketing, operations and merchandise she knows how to find additional value in the process chain to unleash hours and cost savings and create flow so the team can add more value to the business.

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