Evolving Not Dying

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After a year of negative headlines about the ‘demise of retail’ dominating the mainstream media, Revo 2018 gave the other side of the story.  And what a story it is…

In the year since Revo 2017, the reputation of the retail industry has taken a beating. If headlines in the mainstream media are to be believed, we’re on the precipice of a ‘retail apocalypse’ and we should all run for the nearest retraining centre.

There’s certainly no shortage of closures and restructures to report on – and their impact shouldn’t be underestimated – but coverage of the sector has failed to report the full story. A shift is taking place across the retail industry but it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, it’s overwhelmingly positive.

I’m no stranger to a negative outlook on the commercialisation front. I recall early in my career being told by somebody in the marketing department of a large DIY chain that commercialisation wouldn’t last another three years and that I should get out. Twenty years on and I’m glad I didn’t take his advice. The commercialisation sector is almost unrecognisable to the industry I joined in the 90s and the mammoth changes it’s experienced have only improved the sector enormously.

Once upon a time retailers, landlords and managing agents viewed commercialisation of latent space negatively. At worst as something stuck to your shoe, at best something akin to dancing to ABBA – nice to do but you’d prefer nobody knows you’re doing it. A guilty pleasure, if you like. It was common for promoters to be asked to set up in the strangest of locations and expected to be able to make money. It was impossible to get retailers to sign off any PR piece that showed that they supported commercialisation activity, even by the slightest connection.

How things have changed!

Retailers and landlords now embrace commercialisation, committing valuable resources to not only make it happen but to improve and actively help promoters to succeed. On the PR front, in an era of Instagram Stories and social media validation, venues actively encourage partners to tag them, share pictures and boast about successes on their turf.

It also helps that companies and industries who who have historically used promotions as part of their marketing mix have upped their game – many are unrecognisable from their former selves. Which in turn makes their activity all the more successful. And so it goes on – a virtuous circle of wins.

The perception of commercialisation – its potential and its worth – has transformed. At Access Point we’ve kept apace with that change. We attended #Revo for the second year last month to contribute to conversations around the importance of tenant mix, the trend for large brands to downsize and what that means for landlords and the growth in flexible, more nimble retailers as well as the impact of less onerous landlord covenants.

We’ll be sharing our thoughts on all of those conversations in our blogs over the next few weeks.

Revo2018 only served to validate many commercialisation veterans’ opinions that retail isn’t declining, it is evolving into something else – something better.

Just as supermarkets in the early 50s changed shopping forever, another change is happening. According to the ONS, Consumer retail spending (ex fuel) over the last five years has grown from £334 billion (Aug 13 – Jul 14) to £374 billion (Aug 17 – Jul 18) of which only 18% is online. There is still a lot of shopping going on!

Retail, both as a discretionary and non-discretionary spend is still a growth industry and consumers now expect more from where they shop; be it online, at the supermarket or in retail parks and shopping centres. That means standards are rising. If you put great products, marketed well, in front of your target consumers in a shopping environment then you will succeed and it is now in landlords’ interests that you do.

There’s no question, it’s been a monumentous year for retail and Revo2018 was a fitting way to celebrate it.

Now we’re keen to set the record straight beyond Revo. It’s our role, as champions of the UK’s traders and as partner to some of the country’s best landlords and venues, to share the real success stories coming out of the retail sector with the wider world.

Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing our customers’ stories of innovation, resilience and longevity to give them the recognition they deserve.

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