• Play Retail Ltd.

Forget the new ‘normal’, let’s embrace the new ‘different’.

The plight of the high-street during the pandemic has been widely reported and we’ve all seen (when we’ve felt safe to visit our beleaguered town centres) the sad decline of the retail landscape. Stores sit empty, and others are like time capsules, the clock frozen in a constant reminder of a bygone age. Close your eyes and the sights and sounds of busy shopping centres, thriving local independent shops and the hustle and bustle of happy shoppers fill your mind...

Or do they? 2010-2019 certainly were not the halcyon days of retail and the decline of the high-street is not a new problem. Correct, the pandemic has been a wrecking ball, but the cracks were already there; the decimation inevitable.

The last 10 years has seen a digital revolution that has fundamentally changed the way consumers use technology in their daily lives. This has led to a significant shift in the behavioural norms of all shoppers, leading some forward thinking retailers to reassess their omni-channel offering. But was this too little too late? Did anyone really go far enough to adapt to consumers burgeoning expectations?

When I am talking to my retail and brand clients I often hear them use the word ‘normal’ when describing their post-pandemic strategy: “...When things get back to ‘normal”, “...expecting ’normal’ footfall” and even the dreaded mantra “The new ‘normal’”. But is ‘normal’ really something we should be aspiring to get back to?

The pandemic has been a catalyst for change on a seismic level and shopper behaviour will never be the same again. But this change is not new, it’s merely an acceleration of an established trend. This calls for a drastic rethink of the relative values of the physical shopping environment, and it’s role in the shopper-brand relationship and path to purchase. We mustn't consider digital as the enemy to be overcome, instead it should be seen as the baseline on which to build a sustainable, transformative and convergent retail strategy.

That’s why we are working with our clients to leave ‘normal’ behind and define the new ‘different’; embracing the innovative and exciting opportunities this radical approach presents us. Leveraging investment in physical and digital channels to create experiences that connect with shoppers in powerful and exciting ways.

- Mark Howell, Managing Director, Play Retail


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