Since the beginning of 2020, there has been a developing culture of flexibility. This has been best represented, perhaps, by the transition many employees have seen toward teleworking with tasks being completed between spaces or with a greater degree of independence. Needing to respond to quickly changing circumstances, such as lockdowns, as well as trying to navigate new methods of operation, becoming less rigid was a course for success.
Retail has also been affected by a strive toward flexibility too, shopping spaces that are more versatile and responsive to changing circumstances. This is a trend that is now being seen to continue. Small retail spaces are becoming more popular and the high street is being ever more populated by businesses that are willing to adapt. Even national brands, those known for their warehouses and space, such as IKEA, are now seeking small high street alternatives.
This is also in part due to the fusion of eCommerce with brick and mortar retail. Over the past few years, shoppers have demonstrated a preference for in-store browsing and experience but with the delivery options, click and collect, or online shopping. As a result, retailers are more confidently hosting smaller retail spaces, knowing that product options can be stored elsewhere and ordered for customers, whether for home delivery or to collect in-store at a later date.
Now, with shop shelving being relieved of abundance and store space not being an essential part of a retail concept, there is a new wave taking over the high street.
Small retail, as it is being referred to, describes the host of experience-focussed, tech-savvy, flexible stores. These spaces are free from the cumbersome checkout areas, relying on portable payment options instead, such as contactless transactions. The extra space allows retailers to focus on selling a lifestyle or brand, showcasing products without the need to offer a large variety in store for an immediate transaction.
Additionally, smaller retail spaces mean fewer overheads. This financial saving is not only appealing to established brands, such as John Lewis, who have already begun to open smaller and conceptual retail stores, but to first-time retailers too. Independent retailers, such as those looking to establish a high street presence in the wake of eCommerce success, now have a greater number of options.
Customers too are changing their expectations with early feedback suggesting that shoppers prefer a more versatile shopping experience. Browsing a small, experience-focussed retail concept means less time spent navigating unnecessary products and more time enjoying a brand, whether their interior design or personalised shopping options.
Small retail also appears to be more sustainable, which, as climate concerns spread among consumers, is helping to draw shoppers in, relieving them of the guilt associated with space inefficient and carbon costly retail concepts. Some retailers are even merging their spaces, a trend that has been popular among independent stores for some time, reducing their overheads by sharing a high street space and designing their stores to complement each other’s business.
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