Does new retail need a new prototype?

As retailers swing attention back to brick and mortar, the importance of retail store design and layout is once again top of mind. My latest Retail Wire weigh-in pivots off of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine from WD Partners which posits that the old design retail store benchmarks, specifically prototype store models, are fast becoming obsolete. The article makes the argument that size shouldn’t matter so much when it comes to formulating format strategies and moreover, that store format anomalies compromise efficiency.

Are traditional retail store benchmarks for design obsolete?

WD’s idea of putting flexible and scalable modules forward in store design is intriguing. After all, for a few nail-biting retail minutes, retailers didn’t seem to know what to do with all those stores. Thankfully, the potential to modify and utilize existing stores to drive productivity now has retailers excited about possibilities, not just fretting over liabilities.

Many retailers have done an admirable job of refining existing locations and are embracing a nimble, test-learn-and-deploy mindset that’s wringing greater productivity out of any new stores built. These days, stores of all shapes and sizes are teeming with experiments, which is why despite all the noise about small formats, flagship stores have never been more relevant: the bigger the store, the greater the number of tests. Retailers are finally in a position to harness the data they are collecting from these brick-and-mortar laboratories (often thanks to third-party partnerships).

Digital is usually touted as the ultimate data-gathering environment. Now, retail store analytics are taking center stage once again. The growing number of digitally-native brands that are eager to hang shingles on terra firma might be the best candidates for making the leap into modular design. In fact, they would be the ones best suited to creating the modules, given their inherently deep knowledge of users and customers. Once the standards are set, established retailers would no doubt follow.

Does advanced retail store analytics negate the need for new models?

With all of the new capabilities now available to them, are retailers well positioned to manage and modify fleets dominated by “anomalies” without moving to new models? Will retailers’ newfound cognitive confidence actually delay their perceived need for modular formats? Should traditional retailers just keep working with what they’ve got and evolve incrementally into the formats of the future?

Check out the Retail Wire discussion here

Carol Spieckerman