The department store has traditionally been where a customer can shop for many different brands, fulfil the majority of their purchasing dilemmas under one roof, get a refreshment and enjoy a retailing experience. That role has even more relevance in today’s retailing landscape than it has had in the past.
What have department stores got going for them?
Space. They are, or should be, in destination locations, the anchor of a shopping mall or retail park, a beacon on our city’s main High Streets. They have the space to be able to offer a customer a hassle free, all under one roof, shopping experience to meet and exceed all of their expectations.
Range. The extensive space of a department store means it can offer a complete cross category range with strong price architecture to meet most customer’s needs. There are opportunities to cross merchandise to maximise calendar events, and to upsell and cross sell to customers. A customer has no need to leave the premises or to go online to compare prices of leading brands because they are all there.
Service. A customer who enters a department store is not going to be just popping in, they are going to be spending time in the store. This gives the retailer every opportunity to engage with the customer and build a relationship demonstrating expertise and product knowledge.
But while they have a lot going for them, department stores also face challenges from the same direction.
Location. Big space equals big overheads so every inch of space needs to be as productive as possible. Range planning and space analysis must be ongoing, regularly revisited to tweak and refine space and ranges which all boils down to space flexibility. Be agile with the space, reactive and proactive, refreshing the environment frequently for the customer so they have a new reason to visit.
Range. Broad ranges results in significant stock holding and process complexity. Department stores need stock management and merchandising systems, reliable systems that store staff understand and can use to improve their knowledge and ability to meet their customer’s needs, whilst minimising the amount of stock in store.
Service. Getting the balance between staff numbers and therefore cost, with customer service is imperative. Once the balance is right, staff must be product experts across multiple ranges to be able to demonstrate authority and offer good service. Product training, customer service training, must be ongoing.
Like every retailer, the department store must give customers a reason to visit. They have the space to create events, destination categories and above all, excitement. Selfridges might be the masters of this, but a department store on any High Street can create the same authority with a clear investment in its staff, its systems and its space.
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