On Thursday the 3rd of June we heard from experts from the BRC, Quadient and B&Q on how strategic partnerships can revive the high street.

On the webinar was our own BRC Director of Insight Kyle Monk, Candice Ohandjanian; UK Retail Director for Quadient, and Chris Bargate; Business Development Director from B&Q.

Below is a summary of the points raised in the webinar:

The webinar opened with economic context from Kyle Monk, laying out some of the stats on the current recovery, and the challenges that we face. He told us that an astonishing £30 billion was lost in store sales across 2020 and the outlook in the June 2020 reopening was 40% down on pre-pandemic levels. There’s currently a positive outlook and the economy showing signs of recovery with sales up 7.2% in April 2021 compared to 2019, and May’s numbers have continued in this trend.

However, footfall is still down, especially in cities and town centres. London was down 44% as of April 2021, caused predominantly by many still working from home, and a lack of tourism. A further worrying sign was that 10% of retail stores remained closed in April/May despite being able to reopen.

All this leads to an obvious conclusion. Physical retail must do something to change this trend.

Candice Ohandjanian, of Quadient UK, gave us some examples of major brands, such as Nike and Apple, who despite major differences in branding, found ways to collaborate successfully.

To successfully solve the problems that Kyle laid out, retail stores must look to innovation, and in particular the new demand for Click and Collect that we have seen from consumers as the pandemic has progressed. Candice noted that the EY consumer index shows that customers value a safe, sustainable, and exciting customer experience when going back to stores. Click and collect answers many of these issues, creating a safe and convenient way for customers to shop.

Click and Collect lockers can also change the nature of the in-store experience. With one of Quadient’s partnerships, parcel lockers have allowed staff to move back to pure sales roles, and the contactless solution allowed customers to choose whether they interact with staff, making it feel like a safer in store experience. In a partnership with Decathlon, a Click and Collect in-store model not only attracted more customers to the stores, it also encouraged additional spend. 33% of customers spent additional money in stores, in Europe averaging at 45 euros extra per shopper.

Personalisation is also key, and this can be achieved in many ways. One would be to incorporate your businesses app with the in-store experience, to give rewards or prizes for shoppers who come in store by incorporating barcode scanning and prizes loaded into Click and Collect lockers.

Ultimately, all of this has to be achieved with partners that want the same kind of success, highlighted in the quote “alone faster, together further”.

Chris then brought B&Q’s perspective to things, explaining how Click and Collect, and partnerships more broadly, had become major parts of their offerings.

When COVID hit, like everyone, B&Q had to close stores and as a result opened carpark contactless click and collect model, which was a big logistical challenge. When they could reopen, Click and Collect demand kept surging, which has now resulted in a change to how instore looks to facilitate the use of Click and Collect.

Testing and trialling new approaches is at the heart of the B&Q attitude now. In smaller stores there is testing underway to look at how stores will be formatted with this new model, and what performance looks like across retail parks, high streets and within supermarkets. On that final approach, their new partnership with Asda has been very successful, bringing access to the strong footfall of supermarkets for B&Q, while expanding Asda’s customer proposition at the same time.

B&Q have tried to come at their own offering from different angles, such as in store design studios, tool hiring, and matching customers with trades people, all created through partnerships with other organisations. Ultimately though, partnerships should be creating value for both sides of the equation. The partnership doesn’t always have to answer the same question for both sides (i.e., doesn’t all have to be about footfall), but it should provide value both ways.

The pandemic has changed many things, but the fundamental challenges for many retail businesses remain the same in nature. These challenges however have been accelerated. The question of footfall will be one that retail needs to face, and as we saw in the webinar, there are many ways to approach the issue. Conditions like trading safely will likely be with us for some time, and the opportunity to use click and collect and similar types of in store models give us a path forward for in-store evolution of retail.

Click here to find out more about Quadient, and the ways in which they can help optimise click-and-collect for your business.