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Four out of five people now own smart phones. Take a look around when you are next out and about. You may well think that the figure is that four out of five people are on their smart phones at any given time. This is an opportunity for retailers. A window. A chance for the high street to recapture some of those customers that have drifted online. How? Being online meant being at a desk, or indoors. Now people are connected 24 hours a day, and their decision making is on the hoof. Get on the tube or bus, head into town, and decide where to go on the journey.
Search and social marketing are part of the process, getting your brand and location in front of those traveling into town.

But it is only the beginning of the process. The competition is fierce. The need to differentiate is paramount. The customer experience has to be special. If you attract a new customer, you want to make them come back, to talk about you, to have something to talk about, and to be changed, from a drifter to an advocate. That experience is what drives Brian McManus of Dreambox, a specialist retail interior designer. Currently it is shoes that are challenging him to think outside the shoebox.

“I have always loved thinking about brands. Throughout my career I have contextualised design to the brands that are being sold. I love to talk to my clients about their journey to building their brand. People don’t just open a shop, they think about the products, what will sell, the positioning of the company, and the customer. The store design is now an even more important part of that process.”
Dreambox has been working with Chester Lusk at the The Boot Tree for several years. Chester’s father, Robert Lusk brought the Birkenstock brand to Covent Garden in the 70s, and since they have built their own retail brand, The Natural Shoe Store, as well as a stand-alone Birkenstock store on Neal Street. “When customers come into the store, we want them to get value from their purchase. That value is not confined to the product they may take away; it is about the total value of shopping.”

Shoes are an emotional purchase. They mean a lot to a lot of people. More perhaps than other items of clothing. The relationship between women and their shoes goes beyond the practical into the dream world of brands and their meaning to people. Birkenstock shoes and sandals represent a lifestyle. It would not be pushing it to say that if it were left to Birkenstock owners we would still be in Europe.
The Natural Shoe Store sources products to reflect their brand. The store has sourced interior design to do the same. The Dreambox team believe that every touchpoint is an engagement opportunity. The lighting, the material finishes, the presentation of the products, the storytelling and information delivery, packaging and the sales approach all make a difference. The brand is about creating a lifetime customer, not a one-off sale. The free cup of coffee creates time as well as enjoyment.

As Brian says – “We are devoted to working with intrinsically beautiful and honest and sustainable materials … Douglas Fir, Oak and Birch plywood surfaces and structures, with expressed components in aluminium and steel. Lighting is all LED. On top of this is how we use those materials, how customers engage with them (A door handle in teak rather than stainless steel in the cold of winter) … It’s about engaging people’s emotions … and in the displays it’s about exhibiting a love of the product and passing that on to the customer.”
Dreambox is taking these thought processes further. They are developing a display system that will enable shoe shops to buy into developing a better retail experience without having to buy bespoke interior design. The shopper wants to enjoy their shopping. It is leisure, not work, so enhancing their pleasure will improve the return on investment. Retailing is moving at a pace. The digital world is getting the most attention but with a clever combination of using online marketing and offline experiential retailing, the high street can change the game, again.

Photography by The Boot Tree Limited

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