001 / Retail is Dead /

001 / Retail is Dead /

We actually put that on the door of our new London store. It was what one of our prospective investors told us before they pulled out right before we signed the lease. It was, in part, an FU to them…but also a wider commentary that maybe retail as we know it is dead.

But retail shouldn’t be dead. It should be a thriving living organism that you view no differently to one of your products. For retail to exist, it needs to offer something thoroughly different from what you offer online.

So we went back to the drawing board after they pulled out and created a plan whereby opening up another store wasn’t a huge capital expense; we would do the work ourselves, we wouldn’t hire any additional staff members, and we would only offer a carefully selected edit of our 130 odd products.

And we did just that. We signed a 7-year lease, and over 4 months built a store. Being in that space and feeling it allowed us to create a store that was as intrinsic to our DNA as seaweed is.

We then used data to carefully curate an edit of our best products. We’re very lucky that all of our products have pretty high repeat rates, but there are 25 or so that our customers come back to again and again. It would be very easy to work out a top 25 edit based purely on unit sales, but that creates an echo chamber of sorts. You never know where on a customer journey that product lies. For example, somebody might come into our store and buy incense but end up buying many different products along their journey with us. Incense is by no means a bestseller, but we had to appreciate the value of it in our customer journey and lifetime. It’s therefore important to consider what products enter a new customer into your ecosystem.

We also knew for the store to thrive it had to be a community space; hence our frustration with big corporates who sweep in and create a pop-up store rather than invest in their community. Most stores you go into have shelves upon shelves of products – you can go in and rather anonymously buy something and be on your way.

We knew that wasn’t what we wanted to do. We wanted to create a store whereby you’re almost forced to talk to us. There’s often so much love and work behind each product that you can miss it; talking to us allows us to share all of our insights. So we designed a store with one shelf. Some people didn’t understand it; they popped their head in walked out. But those that did loved talking to us and hearing all about our products and our ethics.

Human interaction is also becoming increasingly important to us as we transition into more sophisticated natural skincare formulas; sharing our knowledge and taking our customers through a step by step of how to use them is central to our expansion plans.

We turned the basement into an events space and were planning to have a calendar of showcasing local artists and businesses. Hopefully, we’ll be able to roll that out towards the end of the year.

 

Picture 1; this was the first messaging we had on our door. Moving up from Margate, we needed to clearly communicate who we were and what we stood for.

Pic 2; this is one of the many art installations instore. We love showing the work of talented local artists (and in this store, talented local artists who utilise waste products in what they do). We tried to utilise waste products wherever we could

 

We were open for 10 days before we had to temporarily close (for obvious reasons). In those ten days, we hope that we were able to build the foundations of a loving and engaged community to come back to.

With what’s going on in the world currently, there’s a huge question mark over the survival of retail in a ‘post covid’ world. Will retailers shut their traditional stores in favour of e-commerce? For us, that thought is almost unfathomable.

These are retailers who lost their customers years ago because they tried to replicate e-commerce in their stores through ‘technology’, rather than treating stores as their own entity.

The focus needs to be back on creating a retail environment that in many ways utilises the way retail was done years ago; personal, tailored and unique. The emphasis should always be on the customer, with everything else coming secondary.

Retail will have to evolve at an even greater rate to stay relevant and offer something entirely different from what’s online. Maybe the post COVID landscape will allow retailers to do just that.

So, maybe retail as we know it is dead. But we’re intent on doing it differently.