Podcast – What’s next for the High Street in new normal?

During independent retail month, which champions local retail and the health of the UK High Street, Retail Connections shone a spotlight on the future of the store, when Chris Field caught up with Beth Butterwick, Consulting Partner at fashion brand Jigsaw, and Romulus Grigoras, Founder and CEO of OneStock, the modern and agile order management solution (OMS) for omnichannel retail.

“It is incredible how crises can be a call to action to really test both the operational agility and the resilience of the team.”

Beth Butterwick, Jigsaw

Beth recounts how Jigsaw responded in the early days of the pandemic – from going 100% digital with stores shut, to designing and pivoting new ranges remotely (and selling record numbers of pajamas in the first two weeks of lockdown), making DCs covid-safe, and reacting to customer service demands and new shopper demands.

Jigsaw’s customers tended to traditionally be store-first shoppers – and it took them a few weeks during lockdown before they converted to online buying – but once they did, they didn’t look back and the Jigsaw team has never been busier.  The fashion brand turned on dark store capabilities during the lockdown to free up stock shuttered in shops to service online demand.

Jigsaw wasn’t the only retailer finding new ways to open up stock, as Romulus explained – many were using large format store as web order fulfilment hubs to take the pressure off their usual online order warehouses, while other were able to leverage a unified view of stock to open up click-and-collect, or curbside pick-up.

Stores will bounce back as local shopping remains ‘sticky’

The online boom didn’t mean a permanent shift away from its stores, Jigsaw saw a ‘phenomenal bounce back’ when store reopened on 12 April, which has been sustained, particularly among its regional High Street shops and suburban outlets as the trend for local shopping remained, as Beth told us:

“We now need to celebrate the role of the store through the eyes of our customers.  Yes, they find online shopping convenient but they still want in-store experiences and the physical connections they lacked during lockdown.  So, celebrating the role of the store is a really important part of when we look back on how we coped during the pandemic and what the future looks like.”

Digitally empowered stores of the future

Jigsaw’s ‘new normal’ customer is a much more digitally savvy one, and she comes into store having showroomed online or more open to fulfilling her order via ship-from-store, and that has prompted the need for more digitally empowered stores.

Beth outlines how this shift is now informing the retailer’s strategy, with digital-first now a core focus that will allow its high-end stores to act as brand hubs for their customers whilst benefiting from the efficiency and convenience of the web.  With a replatform on the cards, Jigsaw will be able to connected all customer engagement so buying journeys are seamless and will be investing in a customer data platform.

OneStock recently launched its #SaveShops campaign which encourages shoppers to support physical stores to ensure the long-term health of the UK’s High Streets.  The campaign is supported by retailers including Jigsaw, Ted Baker, Reiss, Crew Clothing, Monsoon and Paperchase.

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