Friday, June 3, 2011

The battleground for retailers today is...?

From the mid 1800s to 1930s, the department store was our society’s most pioneering and influential institutions. British department stores have been the most attractive way to shop for decades, but what are the keys to their longevity and steady success? John Lewis, one of the UK’s favourite retailers, are a perfect example of clever use of implementing new marketing ideas whilst still focusing on their heritage and unique business structure.

Department stores are able to have ‘everything under one roof’, making them immediately marketable, as they are able to offer an extensive range of garments. John Lewis are able to sell popular high street attire alongside fashionable designer labels because of the ‘convenience’ factor. John Lewis have 28 department stores, all of which are geographically easy to reach. The feeling of never being too far from a store works to their advantage.

Customers have more choice at a greater price range, instead of a limited choice of one brand, when they visit department stores. From Mango to Whistles, Dune to Terry de Havilland, John Lewis allows the customer to create a high street to high fashion outfit without searching the streets of the city. However, competing department stores often have the same brands in their store, so add-ons are required to lure the customers.

Department stores have the resources to offer extra customer services that enhance the overall shopping experience and add further value to sales. As well as the restaurants, restrooms, lengthier opening hours, home delivery and gift list services, John Lewis are able to offer gift cards which can be used to purchase anything from womenswear to home furnishings across a variety of brands. These attractive offers boost sales for the retailer, particularly during the Christmas period; a man can walk in to view a bag to buy for his wife, then walk out with a gift card allowing her to buy over half a million different products in John Lewis stores throughout the country.

In line with technological trends, online sales for department stores are just as lucrative as online shopping websites such as ASOS. The John Lewis Edition magazine has an interactive, online counterpart, focusing on bringing the catwalk to the public. The website includes video makeup tutorials and recommended looks for each of the current season’s trends. The retailer has understood that buyers of John Lewis items are often spoilt for choice. By offering a user friendly guide that transfers you to the shopping cart in a few clicks, makes online shopping user friendly and fun.

Will department stores live on for another 200 years, or will we be sitting at our screens on price comparison websites instead? Personally, I think shopping can be a relaxing experience or an outing with friends. A department store chain like John Lewis will be with us for years to come, offering exciting new clothing at great prices and the opportunity to mix and match outfits across a variety of brands at your leisure. John Lewis can only get better.

Pictures and screenprints taken from