Faced with increasing competition from online shopping, retailers have had to reinvent themselves and in doing so, focus on the ‘customer experience’. This has necessitated a paradigm shift. Whereas retailers traditionally would have expectations of customer traffic, they now have to provide unique shopping experiences to attract savvy customers through their doors.
And it’s been the reinvention of existing retail stores that provides the greatest evidence of retail’s capacity to understand the new consumer landscape.
The Myer Bourke Street store redevelopment provides a stunning example. As an iconic shopping destination in the heart of Melbourne for close to a century, CFSGAM, GIC and the Myer Family, with Myer as the tenant, embarked on a $140 million staged redevelopment incorporating cutting edge design and new building services throughout.
Norman Disney & Young (NDY) provided the full range of building services for the Myer redevelopment and according to their Associate Director and project coordinator, Ben Ferguson, reinventing a Melbourne icon provided an exciting challenge.
“The Myer refurbishment had to preserve heritage aspects of the building including the facade, Mural Hall and renowned Bourke Street windows. The complex was comprised of 5 inter-connected existing buildings, making up the old Myer Bourke Street Store. The project floor area is 5,550sqm approximately from Lower Ground to Level 6 inclusive, plus an additional level 7 function space of 1,500sqm.
“The redevelopment features a new glass roofed atrium, designed to host bespoke customer events such as fashion parades; this typifies the emphasis on the design in respecting history yet providing inspiring new customer experiences” Ferguson says.
What the Myer redevelopment illustrates is that the working environment of a major retail outlet is very much about customers and the brand. Something that is clearly evident in the Selfridges Shoe Gallery.
Located on the second floor of the landmark Grade II listed Selfridges London store – currently the largest shoe department in the world – the shoe gallery elevates the shopping experience to a new level. The vision of the store owners was unique: to treat the shoes as a gallery exhibition within state-of-the-art interiors using lighting as a key element for emphasis and drama.
“The shoes take centre stage within the theatre of a retail environment” says NDYLight Senior Designer Director, Theo Paradise-Hirst.
“Essential elements of the lighting scheme involved strategic planning to minimise direct visual impact, the choice of lamps to reduce glare, integration of fittings in troughs, shelving details and thorough aiming and commissioning exercises” he says.
In spite of global economic hiccups, investment by retailers into unique customer experiences continues unabated. According to the 2011 edition of How Global is the Business of Retail? by leading global real estate adviser CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), global retailers have continued to grow their store networks in a wide range of international markets despite challenging conditions.
The CBRE survey mapped the global store footprint of 323 of the world’s top retailers across 73 countries to identify trends in global retail expansion at national and local levels.
International expansion remains a key strategy for retailers throughout the world, with 40% of new openings occurring outside the retailer’s home region.
Global retailers appear to be impressed by how well Australia weathered the Global Financial Crisis and this has generated a wave of interest from global retailers.
In fact, Australian commercial property appears to be luring investors away from the stock market. With global unrest in equity markets investors are shifting money into the safety of bricks and mortar. Solid demand for traditional retail offerings has been the catalyst for robust commercial property sales across Australia in the first half of 2011.
Retail remains a clear barometer of consumer confidence. The current level of investment, innovation and development in retail augurs well for the longer term growth of the sector.