This week, Beales – the oldest department store in the UK, followed the likes of Woolworths and BHS into the overflowing High Street graveyard. In stark contrast, IKEA boldly revealed it was investing £170m in a new store at Kings Mall shopping centre in Hammersmith, London.
These two stores could hardly be more different, which goes some way to explaining their contrasting fortunes recently.
IKEA conjures up a stunningly simple and consistent image in everyone’s head. Need something for the home that looks good, is decent quality and doesn’t cost the earth? IKEA immediately pops into our minds. It’s this immediacy of meaning and association that fits in effectively with modern, busy lifestyles - the route from A (consumer need) to B (solution) is quick and easy.
But it’s not just that. When we get to their store (or website), the experience is genuinely pretty enjoyable, with simple, engaging displays in a stimulating environment. Just last week, a relative’s 10-year-old described an IKEA trip as one of the most enjoyable afternoons of her life!
This clarity of brand promise and experience helps create a real buzz and currency around IKEA as it very much is alive and kicking in the nation’s collective consciousness, demonstrated recently as it came 5th in YouGov’s 2019 BrandIndex Buzz rankings.
In contrast, stores like Beales offer benefits that are somewhat unclear. There is simply no immediate reason to make the effort of traipsing to a Beales or a BHS when what they offer can be found elsewhere, more quickly, for a cheaper price.
Unless it was on your doorstep or you had time on a wander down the high street (which is not something many do these days), what would make you think it is the place to go? What simple message pops into your head when you think of a Beales, a BHS, or A House of Fraser that would you steer you there over others?
In today’s fast paced, online world, physical stores need to have a clear, special ‘reason to visit’ in their heads; those that are saying goodbye sadly don’t.
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