Brick and mortar meets the matrix of digital shopping today at Union Square in Aberdeen, UK. House of Fraser, a leading online retailer, has announced the opening of a so called “buy and collect concept store” this morning, a re-visitation by H of F into the Aberdeen market after a nine year abscence from the traditional store experience.
This expansion of House of Fraser’s efforts offers an interesting and potentially profitable twist this time around however. Rather than a traditional “brick and mortar” operation, this leader in online salesmanship is offering up the UK’s first such center for engaging customers via web and direct presence on the ground. The benefit being fairly obvious at both ends of the spectrum.
Customers of the online giant can now not only order “in stores” via the company’s iPad-centric and interactive aspect at Union Square, but they can also have their items shipped to the store for convenient pickup. The company appears to be taking advantage of keenly focused economic factors to leverage growth. What this means in real terms is, offering added visibility and features where the market indicates. In the case of Union Square, and by H of F’s own dogma, taking advantage of increased sales there – a sort of disposable income metric targeting, as you will.
The press release from Hammerson here, reveals a bit more of this new business philosophy. What do we like about it? Not only is the move brilliant business insight, but superb PR as well. Sooner or later the online world had to revert back to the brick and mortar model – only in a much more economical and refined way. For expansion to occur, after the “flux” of migration to digital, people still have to see people. This only makes sense.
So, having a House of Fraser employee show a am elderly lady how to use an iPad, this is brilliant, if not a new idea. House of Fraser, so far this year, has seen over 100 percent increase in sales, meanwhile Union Square are up almost 7.5 percent. If ever there were a “win-win” – Lawrence Hutchings, Hammerson UK Retail MD, had this to add:
“To have secured the first pure buy and collect concept store in the UK is not just important for the centre – it also has the potential to shake up the retail sector.
Shopping is no longer a linear process and the majority of purchases are now informed by more than one channel. Consumers increasingly spend more time online and increasingly prefer to collect in store, which drives footfall and additional sales for our retailers. Union Square has a strong customer catchment and adding House of Fraser to the retail line up will considerably strengthen our offer.”
Just when companies everywhere are contracting, wondering where the next expansion will be, Hammerson and other innovative property owners have to be proud to announce initiatives like that of House of Fraser. Combining the online and in store experience – this is one really practical way to expand and re-engage the window shopper. Not everyone sits waiting on pins and needles for that store offer, you know? Nice move.