House of Fraser Leads the Way for a Multi-Channel Future

The opening of House of Fraser’s new click-and-collect store in Aberdeen today could be significant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is a major department store and leading high street retailer sacrificing 98,500 sq ft from their average unit size to engage fully with multi-channel retail. Secondly, and most importantly, it represents what could very well be the future of how customers and retailers interact.

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The emphasis is heavily on creating a relaxed atmosphere in a fashion boutique/internet cafe hybrid in which patrons can have a leisurely browse House of Fraser’s extensive range of products on computers, interactive screens and iPads; all whilst enjoying free coffee and sitting in chairs comfortable enough to snooze in.

The logic behind this concept is that customers now wish to shop in-store as they would at home. Combining a homely, relaxing atmosphere with the highest calibre technology to produce a unique shopping experience is what House of Fraser hope will catapult them ahead of their rivals as the battle for profit margins intensifies in a now rather brutal retail market. Fashion retailer Oasis also seems to buy into this thinking after having opened its very own new concept store just off Oxford Street this week. Oasis also cite customer experience as being the reason for the move – abolishing queues for tills by introducing customised mobile iPads to process transactions throughout the store. The message seems to be clear: embrace technology or fall behind.

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We have also recently seen Ocado trial a shopping wall at One New Change, and as technology develops into as important a part of retail as bricks and mortar, what price a Shanghai-style subway shopping wall adorning Holborn tube station in the near future? It is certainly pleasing to see such a propensity from retailers to engage with technology, rather than fear it. Amazon have also entered the multi-channel ballpit, installing lockers at the St. Paul’s mall, among other places, wherein customers can collect their purchases.

For House of Fraser, this will undoubtedly be one of their most scrutinised stores in terms of performance – not just by HoF bosses, but by retailers nationwide. Following their lead, we may well see other department stores, retailers and possibly even supermarkets rolling out identikit store designs as click-and-collect becomes the definitive way in which consumers re-align their loyalties to brands post-recession. Looking even further ahead, this may well reflect how town centres and shopping malls are designed, as the impact of the reduction in necessary floorspace is felt by landlords and developers alike.

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