Retail Insights from Retail & Tech No 19

Retail news and trends to watch out for

  • Europe’s shuttered shops. There has been more bad news for Europe’s retailers, as a string of countries introduced new national lockdowns, which will see stores closed. France imposed a lockdown on October 30, which forces all non-essential retail to close until at least December 1. The store closures come at a crucial time for retailers, given the run-up to the end-of-year holiday season. The industry was banking on the fourth quarter to recoup some of the losses seen earlier this year due to store closures during the first lockdown. The Christmas selling season now looks severely compromised. The move has met with anger from retailers. The French cosmetics federation FEBEA said that it regrets that perfumeries, parapharmacies, hair salons and beauty salons have not been included in the list of stores that can remain open. It has asked the government to allow these businesses to stay open now and throughout the lockdown. However, the government confirmed on Sunday that stores will not be allowed to open. The government has implemented a new measure that will mean that stores that are permitted to open (supermarkets and hypermarkets) will be prohibited from selling non-essential goods in a bid to be equitable to independent retailers. But this too evoked ire, this time from supermarket chains, which see the measure as inviting consumers to shop online retail giants, such as Amazon. UK prime minister Boris Johnson also announced at the weekend that a lockdown will come into force for England from this Thursday for a period of one month. The lockdown measures will also see non-essential retail closed in the country.


  • China’s retail openings. While the news from the travel-retail channel is mostly bad at the moment, China bucks the trend. In a rare piece of good news from the channel, Lagardère Travel Retail revealed that it had opened eight stores in two of China’s largest airports: Shanghai Hongqiao and Shenzhen. The retailer says the openings come on the heels of the recovery of Chinese domestic air traffic and growth in domestic consumption. The stores include a Chanel Beauty and Accessories outlet – the brand’s first boutique in a domestic airport terminal in China; a Parfums Christian Dior store, a Givenchy cosmetics and fragrance store and a Shiseido boutique. In other news in the channel, retailers continue to look at how they can trade beyond travel. German travel retailer Heinemann opened a pop-up store for a period of one year in the Olympian City shopping mall in Hong Kong. The idea is to sell accumulated stock and recover lost business at the airport.


  • Leaving consumers to their own devices. While retailers may be looking to bring the latest tech to their stores, a recent study shows that consumers prefer to use contactless tools in-store and their own devices. The study, by mobile data capture company Anyline, found that 81% of consumers prefer to use their own device (as opposed to an in-store tool) for shopping in stores. It added that 85% shoppers have at least one retail app on their phone, which means having these apps is becoming more important, rather than just being a ‘nice to have’.


  • Service stores. US-based retailer Nordstrom is looking to new purposes for its stores. The retailer opened two new locations in California, which it calls Nordstrom Local service hubs. These hubs are not full-line stores, but offer services, such as order online, pick-up in-person, contactless curbside pick-up, product returns, alterations, styling, gift wrapping, a beauty packaging recycling center and a clothing donation drop-off.


  • Discount stores go to France. Although stores are currently closed in France due to the lockdown, a flurry of new discount chains have entered the market. Danish discount chain Normal recently opened its first non-shopping mall location in France in Paris and is set to open four more locations in October and November in the Paris region. The chain retails 3,000 products across skincare, make-up, haircare, nailcare, household products and food at reduced prices. Meanwhile, Chinese variety store Miniso opened its first store in France on October 20, and plans to open two more stores in the country this year. Miniso sells around 2,000 low-cost household and consumer goods, including beauty and personal-care products. More than 80% of its products are priced at under €10.


  • Lifestyle stores. While times are tough for brick-and-mortar stores, two beauty flagships opened over the past week that put the focus on more than just products. Dutch brand Rituals opened its largest flagship store in Amsterdam, which it describes as a holistic shopping and lifestyle concept. In addition to a retail space, the store includes a restaurant and mind and body spa offering massages, beauty advice and meditation classes. Meanwhile, Avon’s North American branch New Avon Company has opened its first store, which it describes as an experience center with the aim of helping sales representatives and customers rediscover the brand. In addition to a make-up bar with an AR-powered digital catalog and virtual try-ons, there is also a lounge area to facilitate networking among Avon representatives and customers.


  • Retail robots. Retailing solutions company Simbe has introduced a new version of its retail robot that can better gauge inventory. The new version has improved depth perception and is taller, enabling the robot to better assess store inventory and “see” more products on shelves, including top-shelf overstock items. Simbe says the robot provides e-commerce-level insights to physical retailers.