Let’s kick off with something we probably don’t do enough of, reading a physical book. In the era of audiobooks, Kindles and Amazon; the bookstores of the world are facing a hard time. Long gone are the days when we would physically go to a store and search for the author. However, the big news of the week is that Elliot Management, a Private Equity firm and investor in bookstore chain Waterstones, is acquiring US mega chain Barnes & Noble.
The retailer is still the largest operator of bookstores in the US but, have thus far lacked the ability to innovate and increase footfall. Waterstones on the other hand has been able to reinvent itself and create a bookshop that people want to visit and spend time in. The UK chain did not take the ‘Amazon route’ of focusing on increasing its online sales but instead invested in the in-store experience. Fundamentally, they have transformed a chain of bookstores into what feels like a number of independent communal stores The new B&N CEO, James Daunt wants to replicate this approach and create spaces with personality and build communities. Will this approach work for a market such as the US where 40% of books sold come from Amazon? Or will bookshops end up like record stores? Only time will tell…
On to everyone’s favourite topic, food! Online grocer Ocado has announced that it will be investing in vertical farming. Vertical farming has been developed as a sustainable solution to greenhouse and traditional farming as it uses less water and produces less CO2 emissions than more traditional production methods. Ocado recently partnered up with 80 Acres Farms, an American vertical farming business and purchased 58% of Jones Food Company, Europe largest operating vertical farming. This move shows how Ocado is committed to being recognised as an innovative technology business that understands how they can make processes within the food industry as efficient as possible. By locating vertical farms near their fulfilment centre, the grocer will be able to offer sustainable and fresh vegetables efficiently. In a world where veganism is one of the fastest growing societal trends, this move is important for the company and gives them a competitive advantage.
Finally, to end our retail round-up, we reflect on the last month. This May, high-streets and department stores across the country saw a reduction in footfall by 3%, compared to this time last year. It seems like retailers are failing to deliver out-of-the-ordinary in-store experiences for shoppers that actually get them through the door. However, some retailers are fighting off this drought and transforming their retail spaces into something that customers can experience with excitement and curiosity.
This week for example, Harrods opened its first new beauty hall, the initial phase of a three-part year-long refurbishment. The heritage department store has done a marvellous job with its new food hall and its new beauty hall it’s definitely worth a visit. A true heaven for the beauty obsessed, the hall is home to the first in-store launch of Gucci’s make up line and will also be the exclusive partner for the Hermes make-up launch. Harrods is also planning an exclusive beauty concierge service with treatment rooms and masterclasses. This is an exciting development for the department store, especially when considering that the beauty sector has been one of the fastest growing parts of the retail industry. We can’t wait to see how Harrods will continue to innovate and evolve their flagship store.
As always, please feel free to contact us or find me this weekend at Harrods of course!