New metrics are needed to assess retail store sales in an omni-channel world, attendees were told at a debate hosted by shopfitting specialist Umdasch.

The metrics by which store performance are measured and the effectiveness of those stores in a physical retail real-estate portfolio need to be re-evaluated to take account of the changing nature of the shopping journey, guests heard at the event held in London on 28 February 2013.

Speaking at the fourth Umdasch UK Shop Forum, which took place at the Austrian Embassy in London, Portland Design Managing Director Ibrahim Ibrahim said that emotional engagement and a fresh way of looking at the consumer experience were at the heart of a fundamental rethink of retailing.

In a wide-ranging keynote address, which considered the drivers influencing how store performance might be measured in the future, Ibrahim moved away from considering simple sales per square foot to ask whether performance might be measured in a host of other ways, including “smiles”, after giving the example of an ice-cream vending machine which would only dispense ice creams to those customers who smiled.

“That vending machine was not created by a small entrepreneurial company, it was created by Unilever,” he said. “We are entering an age where people’s brand trust has fallen away and concepts such as sharing rather than owning are taking hold. For many retailers the risk is not about doing things wrong but rather that they continue to rely on what used to be right for too long.”

Portland Design Managing Director Ibrahim Ibrahim (pictured second from right) was keynote speaker at the UK Umdasch Shop Forum

Rethinking required

In the subsequent panel debate, Gant CFO Yasher Rasekh said that the company now viewed its omni-channel activities as one seamless activity. “We would be the first to admit that we are still early in the journey but the business is now seen as one entity, with stores and online purchasing working as one. We are working hard to make the customer interaction seamless across all the channels,” he said.

Brand consultant Craig Allen added that more brand and retail operators were beginning to embrace and understand the issues. “Certainly it has been a step change for brands and retailers to work the concept of omni-channel into their businesses, which have previously been reliant on scale for success,” he said. “To be able to respond in the new era means embracing many of the skills more typically seen in smaller companies.”

Fitch Creative Director Alisdair Lennox noted that the type of creative work being sought by retailers had changed dramatically, with a greater emphasis on empirical data. “While the need for great retail environments is still there, retail clients are very focused on how their stores will link with an omni-channel solution and that is undoubtedly changing the way they approach their portfolio,” he observed.

Javelin Group Director Robin Bevan concurred and added that the challenge of reorienting a retail business had in many cases already been approached through internationalisation. “Taking their operation from a dominant, domestic business to a global stage has been a major challenge for many retailers,” he said. “Looking at the influence of omni-channel retailing and its impact on store strategies, a lot of rethinking of the business will also be required, but it can be done.”

About the UK Umdasch Shop Forum event

The UK Umdasch Shop Forum event took place on 28 February 2013 and builds on a series of European conferences and presentations hosted by Umdasch every year. This year’s event took place in front of an invited audience of around 100 retail clients, designers and brand experts at the Austrian Embassy in London.

Keynote speaker was Portland Design Managing Director Ibrahim Ibrahim, while the panel included Gant CFO Yasher Rasekh, Fitch Creative Director Alisdair Lennox, brand consultant Craig Allen and Javelin Group Director Robin Bevan, plus Toby Baker of Umdasch Shopfitting UK. The evening was introduced by Umdasch UK Managing Director Roman Fussthaler and chaired by Retail Property Analyst Editor Mark Faithfull.