There’s no question the British High Street has taken a hammering over the last year or so; figures from PwC show a record net loss of 2,692 stores from the 500 biggest high streets in the first half of 2018. So with household names such as House of Fraser and Debenhams continuing to experience significant decline, further compounding the notion that the ‘shopping emporium’ is all but dead, who’d risk opening the ‘world’s largest fashion store’ in the UK’s ‘second city’ in today’s volatile retail climate?
Hello Brum – Find Your Amazing
Spanning five floors across 160,00 sp ft, Primark, Birmingham High Street – employing more than 1000 people – has just sealed itself a Guinness World Record. Over the last decade affordable fashion has firmly cemented itself into industry vocabulary, with the likes of ASOS, Missguided and Boohoo establishing huge, global attraction – particularly online. However, while retailers such as Zara and H&M have also established a formidable retail footprint, it’s Primark who are about to make fashion retail more relevant than ever before.
All about the experience
This is no ordinary shopping experience. The Primark Café – complete with Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes, Mickey-shaped fruit skewers and hot beverages imprinted with Mickey’s ears on – is the perfect place to pause during your shop, it also incorporates a children’s interactive game zone as well. But if that doesn’t float your marshmallow, customers can try Primark’s first own-brand café; Primarket. With compostable takeaway cups, only Fairtrade certified coffee beans and five per cent of the cost of every kilo of coffee sold in-store going back to the coffee bean growers.
Not peckish? How about a haircut instead? Collaborating with Soho based, celebrity men’s hairstylist; Joe Mills, the new Mills x Primark barbers offers to ‘keep the man in your life’ busy with a quick cut, a wet shave or facial. And, customers (or wives!) can sip coffee in the Mills coffee bar while they wait.
Add a ‘Duck & Dry Xpress at Primark’ offering a full beauty experience for its customers, The Mezz pizza restaurant, a Hogwarts Wizarding World concession, product customisation stations and the ability to donate ‘pre-loved clothes and shoes of any brand for recycling and you’ll start to get the picture that this store was designed to accommodate for more than just the convenience shopping mission.
A brave new retail world
Primark’s giant leap into a brave new world of departmental retail heralds an exciting time, one where it’s safe to say that emporium retailing isn’t facing extinction but morphing in ways we couldn’t have predicted ten or so years ago.
We live in an experience economy where omni-channel should no longer be seen as utopia for retailers and brands, today’s customer seeks omni-relationships with those that consider investing time and hard earnt cash (or plastic) in.
Primark seem to have succeeded in effectively creating new dimensions of physical and immersive experiences that serve to support not only the unpredictability of the modern customer journey, but through innovative, human-centred, retail design and extended service offering, go some way to show empathy for their shoppers and their (often) busy lifestyles. This is a good thing.
Although arguably broken, The British high street has survived everything economics and society has thrown at it, and it’ll no doubt cope with whatever lays ahead. Whilst outdated and meaningless formats of retail will disappear, I’d like to believe that in its place, something more relevant will emerge.