Retail experts predict further polarisation

Retail will continue to polarise over the next ten years, according to experts and pundits speaking at a recent seminar. But they could not agree on exactly what form that polarisation will take.

According to David White of catalogue retailer Argos, there will be “marked polarisation between the brand as a total entity and functionality”.

“The difference will be whether you are retailing your own product or those of others,” he adds, quoting Chicago’s Nike Town as an example of the former, with Argos and the warehouse chains representing functionality.

Mark Olbrich of clothing supplier Olbrich Retailing Europe supports the idea of polarisation.”But the drive to selling on price and value is unstoppable,” he says. “At the other end [of the scale] retailers are selling on personality, added value and hype,” he adds, highlighting Levi’s “tailor-made” service as a prime example of the latter. He maintains that customisation is the only way out of the high-street price war.

A third view was expressed by Nick Corney of BDG/McColl, organiser of the seminar chaired by James Woudhuysen of The Henley Centre for Forecasting. Polarisation, says Corney, is “the difference between the flagship and the department store”. At the mid-point are retailers such as IKEA, he maintains, “where you go for lifestyle”. Brands, he adds, are “a shorthand for value”.

A third view was expressed by Nick Corney of BDG/McColl, organiser of the seminar chaired by James Woudhuysen of The Henley Centre for Forecasting. Polarisation, says Corney, is “the difference between the flagship and the department store”. At the mid-point are retailers such as IKEA, he maintains, “where you go for lifestyle”. Brands, he adds, are “a shorthand for value”.

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