Scaling local - 5 Questions with Sanjay Dhiman, Director of Store Design, Primark
Q. What is leading to the end of the “cookie cutter” approach to retailing? And do you believe that its demise is a good thing?
Today, consumers are more demanding and brands are striving to be more local in their execution. We hear the phrase “experiential retail” all the time, and there are certain brands that deliver this exceptionally well. Those stores become brand statements and destinations that their loyal consumer base continuously visit, and that also become known to people who are new to the brand. They too want to experience and understand what the hype is all about. It’s certainly a good thing as it encourages diversity in approach and we get to witness some interesting and unique retail experiences.
Q. How and why is this helping retailers build more meaningful relationships with their consumers?
It’s not just for external consumers, but what I would consider to be our “internal” consumers – our colleagues. But if we’re talking exclusively about external consumers, this local execution point becomes really interesting. Stores that are local resonate with our consumers because they are at one with their environment. Consumers feel like the space truly belongs to their city, like it’s a part of it.
Q. What are the challenges and rewards to the cookie cutter approach?
It can be very cost-effective. However, you don’t necessarily need to increase capital spend by a large amount, but you need to be smart in identifying those consumer touch points that matter and invest in those areas. If you do this right, you’ll see closer connections and stronger engagement with both external and internal consumers. A better engagement also fuels richer social media activity – which is especially important for Primark – a brand that doesn’t have a transactional website. It’s like word-of-mouth for the digital age.
Q. Can you think of any brands in this space that are doing well?
Nike and Adidas. They both lean well on their diverse product offerings and offer tailored store design concepts. Whether that be Nike’s House of Innovation in NYC, which is a huge brand statement, or a subtler Nike Hoop Soul 533 in Seoul, they’re nailing localization. Adidas too, localize their Originals stores, by creating local maps with the trefoil logo or using homegrown artists to add local culture to their Wicker Park store in Chicago.
Q. What would happen if retail organizations don’t change? Or if the industry doesn’t change?
We’ve seen plenty of retailers in recent times struggling and eventually going out of business. Retail needs to innovate and change as consumers’ needs change. Whether that be through new services, technologies and payment systems, or even simply evolving store design. There are plenty of examples of those who have struggled to adapt, but I’m remaining optimistic, because there are some brilliant retailers out there that are continuing to inspire and shift the industry to where it should be.