Adding a touch of theatre to retail

Posted: February 1, 2011

As regular readers of this column may know, we are avid watchers of any television programmes featuring the Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, and she is currently back on our screens in Mary Portas: Secret Shopper.

The first programme in the series saw her going ‘undercover’ in a number of High Street fashion chains and some of the resulting footage would have been a little painful for any retailer to watch – horrendous queues at checkouts and fitting rooms, stock left discarded on the floor and apathetic sales assistants who were less than helpful.

In co-operation with the owner of one company (Pilot) Mary attempted to address these issues with a number of initiatives including incorporating an innovative new fitting room system which allowed customers to try on garments and instantly upload the pictures to Twitter.

This appeared to be a success with the customers and just as importantly it seemed to rouse the staff into taking their roles within the store more seriously, which in turn made their jobs more enjoyable.

I’m not suggesting that adult stores should consider offering their customers the same thing – it was a major investment for Pilot – but adding a touch of theatre to retail at appropriate times needn’t cost a great deal and can reap significant rewards. Valentine’s Day is on a Monday this year so retailers could dedicate their stores to the occasion for the whole of the previous week. It’s the second biggest time of the year for greeting cards and a hugely important gift-giving time so in-store displays and POS should be focused around hearts, cupids and the colour red. Staff should wear red too and heart-shaped jewellery, where appropriate. Prize draws can be run for relatively inexpensive gifts such as large boxes of chocolates, bottles of wine or meals for two at local restaurants… There’s so much that can be done to turn an ‘ordinary’ store into somewhere special, and if you need inspiration check out the Mary Portas series on 4OD.

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