I wrote the below piece as a response to an article on the RetailWeek website by the Chairman of Blacks. He was saying that the number of stores in the UK would reduce.
I seem to be swimming against the popular tide but in my view the number of stores in three or four years time will be very similar to today. The big difference is that they will be much more varied in terms of size and the ranges of product that they offer. What we are experiencing now is the end of a model that required a chain of several hundred stores that were all more or less the same. The efficiencies worked for the retailer but customers don’t want total uniformity anymore.
To stop customers just buying online requires stores with more variety and interesting products and services. All of which makes shopping more enjoyable and interesting. The cull of the “uniform” stores will be replaced by as many, or more, new model interesting stores. I expect that it will take a couple of years before we all work out how best to deliver this new model but there are retailers who appear to be working towards this now. Think of John Lewis department store and the more specialist John Lewis at Home stores. A small step but an indicator of the direction that much of retail could be moving towards. It’s going to be an interesting next couple of years.