Fashion brands lead pureplay to omnichannel transition as role of physical store evolves

27 April 2017

Fashion brands have led the way in transitioning from pureplay to omnichannel retail, accounting for 29.6% of all online retailers taking physical space in the UK to date, according to Savills.  This is followed by the furniture and homeware sector  (25.9%) and electrical, DIY and building supplies brands (14.8%), notes the firm’s Retail Revolutions: From Digital to Physical report.

Five pureplay brands made the leap to physical retailing in 2016, says Savills, including Missguided which opened its first store at Westfield Stratford, while Finery and Little Mistress transitioned via department store concessions.  Looking ahead, online sales growth in the UK is expected to level out over the next five years, slowing from 11.4% per annum between 2012 and 2016 to 4.8% by 2022*.  However, the firm states that it is not a case of online versus offline, but rather how the two platforms can work together to provide the best ‘total’ retail experience.

Marie Hickey, commercial research director at Savills, comments: “When it comes to fashion and homeware, the biggest driver of total retailing continues to be consumer preferences.  In particular, the desire to touch and feel a product before purchase remains strong, meaning physical stores play an important role in driving both online and offline sales.  Stores can also deliver convenience to customers, a key attraction of shopping online, in the form of click and collect services.”

True digitisation of experience will now be at the forefront of store evolution, says Savills, which to date has centred largely on hardware, such as providing iPads to allow shoppers to search for products online.  The evolving focus is on creating integrated software solutions, which can provide the same personalised shopper experience in-store that consumers have become accustomed to online, and enhance the speed and ease of payment.

While the transition into physical retailing is positive news for the property sector, Savills also says that retailers are becoming more selective and measured in the size and location of their stores, which is likely to result in a strategic focus on major retail centres.  For some, including and, stores are not only a way of selling products but an opportunity to showcase and promote the brand in key urban locations, giving them the greatest possible exposure.

Sean Gillies, head of UK retail at Savills, adds: “Despite increasing recognition of a physical store’s role in raising brand awareness and revenues, this is unlikely to lead to a flurry of national requirements from pureplay retailers making the transition to bricks and mortar.  The most significant impact on retail property will instead come from digitisation of the in-store experience, as mobile payment, customer recognition technology, live inventory tracking and monitoring shopper engagement with products become the norm.  The concept of stores remains very much alive and well, though their appearance and the activities that take place within them will continue to evolve.”


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Key Contacts

Marie Hickey

Marie Hickey

Commercial Research

Head Office London

+44 (0) 20 3320 8288


Sean Gillies

Sean Gillies

Head of UK Retail, Director

Head Office London

+44 (0) 20 7409 8159