Clicks and Mortar retailing v1.0

My wife and I took my son to the Jack Wills shop in Marlow today. It was, to my fortysomething year old eyes, “a bit of an odd experience”. The shop is in an old house on the High Street and is on three floors.

The clothes for boys and girls (I didn’t feel any of it was aimed at my age group….) were spread somewhat randomly about. We went up and down the whole thing three times before throwing in the towel and asking for help. We were looking for a specific item which we were told they “may or may not have but if they didn’t then we could order it on the iPad downstairs”.

After my son tried on a few things in the changing rooms – the three top floor rooms set up as bedrooms – we finally established that they didn’t have the trousers we were looking for. The extra loud music my wife and I were subjected to had begun to give us a headache.

The helpful assistant offered to “help me with the Ipad” in the accidentally patronising tone the young reserve for the old  (is this how we speak to our parents??). I ordered the trousers in what could be described as ‘self service’. The iPad was screwed to the wall at my (6′ tall) eye height and couldn’t have been more awkwardly positoned in a corner if they had tried. The WiFi connection kept dropping and needed restarting three times. My reward for ordering in store, not at home, was a saving of £3.99 in postage. It had taken an hour to buy a jumper and order trousers. Those two transactions were carried out separately.

I concluded that next time I simply shouldn’t go to this sort of shop. I like things in clear places ordered by type of goods and size (FYI, I also hate markets and TK Maxx), so maybe this sort of place just isn’t me. It has clearly been designed to encourage browsing and offers a form of organised chaos which teenagers seeing shopping as a recreational activity will enjoy.

The self-service piece was a step in the right direction. I clearly get the fact that retailers cannot now afford the stock levels they once had in a store and are looking for ways to integrate their on-line and off-line activity. Providing an internet terminal in a store feels like Clicks and Mortar V1.0 with all the compromises of internet V1.0. I applaud the intent, but the execution needs the rough edges taking off, with less emphasis on cool-tech and more on what actually works – no one has yet bettered the keyboard on a flat surface as a means of manual data entry.

We are looking at this sort of aided self-service in my day job. Lesson from today was – this can work but the small stuff needs fixing to make sure it doesn’t come across as a toxic mix of disrespect and disorganisation.

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About iansthoughts

Chief Operating Officer at DEFRA, and former council Chief Executive. All views expressed are my own and not formal policy of my employers current or past.
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