As always, the excitement was tangible. The StorePoint hosts and organizers, including Ellen Kelly, Emily Wangler and John Hurley, had brought together all the elements in their usual highly professional way and we were grateful for their support.
Over three days we packed in a head-spinning program of fruitful meetings with executives from Macy’s, JC Penney, Kohl’s, LL Bean, Burberry, Roots, Ralph Lauren, Hudson’s Bay Company and other legendary brands. We talked through responses to emerging market challenges, upcoming initiatives, and ways in which fashion stores could enhance their relationship with customers.
We left the event eager to start work on the list of collaborative projects we had identified. Our feeling was that, although many stores faced significant difficulties in an increasingly fragmented marketplace, they were addressing them positively. The fashion world was a little battered but still unbeaten.
Nobody could predict the magnitude of what was to come, or that it would cause so many promising schemes to be frozen indefinitely. A strange, slow shockwave rippled through the sector as we all began to realize that commercial life would never be quite the same.
But then we remembered that fashion, and retail in general, are masters of reinvention – it’s one of their core attributes and the reason why often the most successful brands are those that can adapt to changing circumstances while still preserving the qualities that make them special to customers.
Our role as designers, fabricators and installers of high-quality store environments, had not altered – only the brief had changed and, despite its unexpectedness, we were determined to take it on.
Rewinding to our pre-virus spell in New Orleans, we had presented the concept of refreshing interiors versus full remodels or new programs. This proposal gained traction with delegates because of its ability, in the right hands, to provide considerable visual impact at low cost. Today, as stores begin to contemplate reopening, the refreshment option seems more relevant than ever.
When we attended the StorePoint Fashion Event 2020 in New Orleans – one of our favorite cities – it was buzzing with bright-eyed enthusiasm for the opportunities ahead. Shortly afterward, nature threw its cruel curve ball. Has all that passion melted away? Or could it spark a new era in store?
Why? Because people are instinctive creatures. Sooner or later, customers will be heading back to stores, seeking the familiar character of their favorite brands. However, they will not expect or want their shopping experience to be the same. They will need visual and practical reassurance that things have changed.
Along with essential measures to reduce infection risk, retailers must inject renewed vigor into their stores – not just for loyal customers but for staff too. Whether it’s as simple as a fresh coat of paint, a merchandise reset, or a few well-sited fixtures on the main aisles that signal something new – such cues will start to restore confidence.
At the time of writing, fashion brands and stores are fully engaged with surviving the pandemic and planning their reopening strategy. One of the few upsides the virus has brought them is the gift of time; for deep-cleaning and maintenance, for upgrading and renewal – and, most of all, for rethinking.
Our design team at CDI World has been rethinking alongside them. We’re developing new concepts for cost-effective refreshes, footprint reduction, hygiene and social distancing control, contactless payment and collection options, and many other aspects that will enable stores to demonstrate their commitment to customers in the hardest of times.
The fashion business has always been fiercely competitive and that will never change, but now there’s a very different kind of adversary on main street. To defeat it the industry will need to join forces via effective forums such as StorePoint. We look forward to the next event and, in the meantime, to playing our part in the fightback.