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Brand Strategy Retail Marketing

Retail therapy: The fashion brands delivering the best in-store experiences


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

May 27, 2024 | 6 min read

Kicking off The Drum’s Retail Focus, we asked marketing experts to tell us which brands are delivering the best retail experience in their brick-and-mortar stores and what they are doing right to attract modern consumers.


Uniqlo is nailing the basics in store

Physical retailers have faced immense challenges in recent years as shoppers have taken their purchases online, Covid closed shop doors for months and the global cost of living crisis has forced a decline in footfall and, as a result, sales.

This means that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers now have to fight harder and think more creatively than ever before to deliver seamless customer experiences in their stores. So, which brands are doing it the best in the eyes of marketers?

We kick off the ‘Retail Therapy’ series by looking at fashion retailers.

Charlie Wade, global executive director of growth & Innovation at VML: “Brick-and-mortar retail is not dead. Indeed, while e-commerce is growing, physical retail still accounts for 82% of sales in the US. Yet the store experience does need to evolve, so brands should take the best elements of traditional retail and then add cues from the digital experience. In this regard, there are few better than Uniqlo. The Japanese company starts by nailing the basics with well-merchandised stores containing clearly signposted items that are neatly presented at all times.

“The pricing strategy is easy to understand and enhanced by enticing promotions on core lines that drive higher-sized baskets without turning the space into a sea of discounts. Moreover, it has proprietary fabrication, as well as ongoing high-profile partnerships (mainly with T-shirts), that offer newness and exclusivity for buyers and a reason to come back regularly.

“In-store imagery, meanwhile, showcases ‘ways to wear’ alongside detail around fit – especially useful for jeans – akin to the information that consumers look for when buying online.

“Where Uniqlo truly excels is the checkout experience. Customers simply drop their items into a tray at an unmanned till, whereupon the cost is calculated without the need to scan items. This greatly speeds up the process of buying, bringing an e-commerce advantage into the store.

“Some of their locations – like Ginza in Japan – have elevated experiences, yet for all-round retail consistency and approach, Uniqlo is a standard-bearer.”

Ben Marks, director of global market development, Shopware: “The key to a great brick-and-mortar experience is blending the best parts of online shopping in your physical store. I look at Lululemon and think it gets it right.

“Online and in its app, I can get recommendations from consultants or organize a return or exchange. Through its free membership program, members get access to product drops, free hemming and member-only events.

“The online shopping blends with the retail locations; I can even check the inventory of my local store to see if a trip is even worth it. It’s an experience as comfy and durable as the clothes.”

Bre Metcalf-Oshinsky, head of public relations, We Are BMF: “Lilly Pulitzer is one brand that comes to mind for a retailer that is doing brick-and-mortar right in 2024. Last year, it popped up in Chicago at the Cube for a one-of-a-kind experience and it just announced a brand refresh, which includes plans to upgrade current storefronts with their new logo.

“It is continuously innovating its spaces to offer personalized experiences to its clientele, as well as exclusive collection drops, such as its 65th-anniversary capsule and its collaboration with Badgley Mischka, which launched in March, plus immersive experiences (select boutiques offer consumers an opportunity to create their own custom shift dress – an iconic silhouette of the brand).”

Lauren Abbott, senior marketing manager, Pixel Artworks: “Flannels may not be as well-known as Harrods or Selfridges, but we can learn a huge amount from this retail leader.

“Having recently launched 3D content on the exterior of the building and with its digital basement experience space, it has managed to merge digital art and fashion, elevating it from being just a store.

“The flagship reflects an exhibition space and the management of the events makes everything feel premium and exclusive. The great in-store experience hasn’t come from simply adding tech; it’s born from an understanding of their customers and the market.

“Most catwalk events combine fashion with innovation and Flannels has brought this approach to store. It is culturally relevant and targets every brand’s key audience, Gen Z.”

Caroline Parkes, chief strategy officer, Rapp: “Wolf & Badger, a digital-first retailer with roots in sustainable brick-and-mortar retail, has unlocked the power of real-life customer experience since Covid.

“It’s a go-to digital destination for small brands and quirky finds but, like Asos, it can be overwhelming. Its three stores in London, New York and Los Angeles offer an esoteric and curated experience with a focus on ‘meet the creator’ events, which are just that….events.

“A favorite of mine, Julia Clancey, recently threw an in-store party with cocktails, music and an illustrator to capture the vibe of its fabulous customers, with attendance by zeitgeist influencers such as LuInLuLand.

“Sadly, I was in a workshop, but Instagram tells me it looked amazing.”

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