Stuart O'Brien, Author at The Retail & Hospitality Design Forum
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Stuart O'Brien

High Streets Task Force deploys its experts

After great government fanfare at its launch last year the High Streets Task Force is spending March meeting retail leaders in 14 locations throughout the country to advise on local plans to revitalise town and city centres across England.

Part of the Task Force pilot, the started in Accrington (Lancashire) and Thornton Heath (London) on March 6th and end in Withington (Manchester) on March 31st.

The ‘Unlocking your Place Potential’ visits are part of the pilot programme for the Task Force, helping to address the challenges that high streets face and to refine support services that will available to towns and cities across England later this year.

Local councils, business representatives, and community groups from each location will receive access to expert advice, data on high street performance, training, and the latest research on the management of town and city centres.

The Task Force – an alliance of placemaking experts from 13 organisations including professional bodies, civic organisations and data providers – is to roll out its range of tools, skills and training following its pilot period, to help more communities redefine their high streets. Each of the 14 pilot locations have already received a report on their plans for transformation and have attended a training day at the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, lead partner of the High Streets Task Force.

Task Force Experts will prescribe products and services that best meet the needs of each town and city centre they visit, helping to tackle a range of issues that could be blocking the potential of high streets including planning, transport, urban design, resilience, and place leadership.

Simon Quin, Executive Director of the High Streets Task Force, said: “We are currently experiencing a rapid and unprecedented decline in the fortunes of high street retail. It’s vital that we get beyond the headlines and deliver support to those that are on the ground, planning and delivering the evolution of our town and city centres.”

“Each place is unique, and has its own needs, challenges and opportunities. The High Streets Task Force is meeting with place leaders to ensure we can provide the best support. Data, training and evidence will help develop a better understanding of what should be done to redefine the high street, bringing people back to our town centres with an offer that’s more than just retail.”

“Getting a full range of stakeholders together who bring local insight and knowledge of their high street is important, so that everyone can contribute and get involved in the vision; whether that be building a vibrant night time economy, drawing on local arts, culture and heritage, or creating space for unique independent businesses.”

In addition to expertise on specific challenges, the High Streets Task Force will provide training on place making to support those involved in transforming high streets, and will bring a range of local organisations together that help support and deliver plans. This development of skills and knowledge is complemented by data on footfall and perceptions of high streets, to best inform efforts to improve the performance of town and city centres.

The locations being visited by the Task Force during March are:

Salford – Swinton Town centre

Croydon – Thornton Heath

Staffordshire Moorlands – Cheadle

Rushmoor – Aldershot Town Centre

Birmingham – Stirchley

Hyndburn – Accrington Town Centre

South Lakeland – Kendal

Preston – Friargate

Coventry – Coventry City Centre

Hartlepool – Hartlepool Town Centre

Cheshire West and Chester – Ellesmere Port Town Centre

Sandwell – West Bromwich Town Centre

Knowsley – Huyton Town Centre

Manchester – Withington District Centre

For more information visit the Task Force’s official website.

Online Shoppers

Brits want to experience retail tech on the High Street

More than half of Brits (54%) would like to experience new retail technology when shopping on the High Street, though exact preferences appear to be different between men and women.

According to research from Outform, the in-store retail tech men most want to use while out shopping are tablets and touchscreens (30%), on account of those devices enabling them to find out more about product functionality, which 23% said they’d like to try voice-enabled interactive experiences in stores.

50% of women also admit that they’re keen to improve their shopping experience with the latest tech.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults also found that UK shoppers still prefer to buy in-store than online: 55% prefer to get their white goods on the high street, 66% prefer it for clothes and 72% for furniture.

In addition, 56% still prefer to shop in-store for consumer technology like phones, TVs and laptops – while 84% prefer physical stores for their food shopping and 75% for buying cosmetics.

Simon Hathaway, managing director of Outform EMEA, said: “The UK high street has been feeling the pressure of online competition and so has upped its game. The elements that have always differentiated physical stores from e-commerce, like personal service and the ability to talk to another human – still remain.

“But now, stores are bringing in new technology like virtual reality, augmented reality and touchscreen functionality to make it even better. Retail has become experiential and shoppers are responding positively.”

The top five reasons respondents prefer in-store shopping are:

  • I can ask for information
  • The in-store promotions and discounts
  • The choice of products
  • It’s a more pleasurable experience
  • Personal customer service.

The top ten retailers for in-store experience are:

  1. Tesco
  2. Asda
  3. Sainsbury’s
  4. Boots
  5. Marks and Spencer
  6. Superdrug
  7. IKEA
  8. Argos
  9. Currys PC World
  10. John Lewis

The impact of ‘recommerce’ on luxury retail

By Philip Hall, Managing Director of Europe, CommerceHub

The rise of clothing recommerce (“resale commerce”— the process of selling previously-owned clothing items) speaks to what today’s consumers want: the ability to break free of fashion’s traditional seasonal cycle and access products from high-quality brands at lower prices.

Luxury retailers and marketplaces have been making serious moves to cater to consumers in search of affordable luxury items. The collaborations Selfridges launched last year, including the Depop popup which showcased a rotating selection of second-hand items on a moving rail display, complemented by talks hosted by Depop sellers gave their customers access to more selection and hard-to-find items.

Selfridges also hosts Vestiaire Collective’s only permanent physical space in the Oxford Street store; where shoppers can pick up designer second-hand garments and clear some space in their wardrobe at their dedicated resale point. And, luxury marketplace Farfetch teamed up with Thrift+, an online service that sells donated designer and high street items on consumer’s behalf in exchange for credit and a charity donation of their choice.

With the second-hand luxury market reaching  7% of personal luxury market value and growing 12% per year, compared to 3% growth in the total luxury market, you can’t ignore the potential impact this opportunity opens up for retailers looking for ways to stay relevant and compete effectively.

To read the full article, click here.

Claim your free pass to the Smarter Payments Summit

There’s a complimentary guest place reserved for you at the Smarter Payments Summit – Can you join 60 of your retail peers?

8 September – Hilton London Canary Wharf

This unique event is entirely FREE for you to attend – simply reserve your place here for the opportunity to:

  • Source new innovative and budget-saving suppliers
  • Attend inspirational seminar sessions from industry thought-leaders
  • Network with like-minded peers
  • Complimentary lunch and refreshments

RSVP now to avoid disappointment!

Secure your store at the Total Security Summit

There’s a complimentary guest pass reserved for you at the Total Security Summit – Can you join us?

28 & 30 June – Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted

This unique event is entirely FREE for you to attend – simply reserve your place here for the opportunity to:-

• Source new innovative and budget-saving suppliers
• Learn from inspirational seminar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders
• Network with like-minded senior professionals
• Enjoy complimentary overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments, plus an invitation to our networking dinner

RSVP now to avoid disappointment!

Achieving an end-to-end Frictionless Retail Experience

Retailers are pushing hard to achieve a ‘frictionless’ customer experience – but in too many cases, the emphasis is on the initial interaction with the rest of the experience woefully inadequate. What is the point of embracing seamless click-through options on Pinterest or Facebook, when the delivery experience is flawed? Or investing heavily in a frictionless in-store experience that leverages ‘pick and go’ technology to avoid queues yet offering no easy way to return goods?

Too many frictionless investments are ignoring one of the fundamental truths of modern retailing: customer experience needs to be consistent across all sales channels, from in-store to telesales and online. Frictionless retailing is not just about leveraging innovative technology to make it easy for customers to spend their money once: it is about ensuring the entire, end to end experience is frictionless, seamless and enjoyable to make it easy for customers to spend again and again.

Andrew Tavener, Head of Marketing at Descartes Systems UK explains why retailers leveraging virtual real-time stock and delivery capacity information to continuously optimise the delivery model are fundamentally changing the customer experience while also reducing costs and improving delivery productivity…

Flawed Fulfilment Models

In-store and online purchase experiences have undoubtedly improved in recent years, as retailers have invested in any number of innovative solutions to achieve a high quality initial customer interaction. Yet delivery horror stories are still endemic. From the parcels left in wheelie bins and emptied before discovered by the customer, to deliveries that arrive on the wrong day, with no notification, and the ’signed for’ items left on the doorstep. Nor is the option of click & collect meeting customer expectations with one in seven UK customers clicking but never collecting their deliveries from a store, due to the quality of experience. And, of course, returns – a process that is hugely expensive for retailers to offer and often inconvenient for customers.

While some retailers will admit their in-store experience needs further improvement, far too many abdicate delivery responsibility because they use a third-party logistics (3PL) provider. That simply is not good enough – for today’s consumer every aspect of the experience will reflect on the retailer. A company that fails to effectively manage its delivery model, whether handled internally or via 3PLs, yet is investing in a ‘frictionless’ customer experience is essentially misunderstanding the concept of seamless, frictionless retail.

Add in endemic driver shortage and the emerging challenges of diesel vehicles being banned from city centres during daytime hours, as well as rising customer expectations regarding retailers’ environmental commitments, the entire delivery model will need to become more intelligent and effective. For frictionless retail to succeed, retailers need to take ownership of every step of the experience from the initial interaction all the way through to delivery and, if required, return.

Virtual Real-Time Model

Imposing control over customer fulfilment will require a significant mindset change in many cases, but retailers have the chance to leverage strong buying power to drive better delivery performance. What standards of delivery are important to the brand? What Service Level Agreements are required to reinforce the quality of frictionless experience customers expect? Critically, can the retailer continually track and monitor in virtual real-time to enforce the quality of delivery experience?

The importance of virtual real-time information has gained ground in recent years. Retailers increasingly recognise the value of a complete and up to date picture of the current stock position – across distribution centres, warehouses and stores – to better understand fulfilment options. But that is just part of the picture. To achieve frictionless fulfilment across all channels retailers also need to understand the stock that is in transit from suppliers, with accurate Estimated Time of Arrival. With a complete and virtual real-time picture of all stock, including expected deliveries, retailers can embrace far more intelligent fulfilment models across every channel, including in-store.

Adding virtual real-time delivery capacity information and, critically, proposed route information enables retailers to completely transform the way delivery options are offered to customers. Rather than set very specific ‘same day’, ‘one day’ or ’three day’ delivery options with a sliding price model, retailers can leverage real-time capacity insight and intelligent algorithms to offer delivery options and prices that reflect actual delivery capacity available.

For example, a customer could be offered free delivery next Wednesday because the retailer is already making a delivery in that area on that day; while Thursday could be more expensive because the customer lives outside the projected route for that day. Ultimately, of course, the choice is still the customer’s but by leveraging real-time information in this way a retailer can make the process work far more efficiently, using incentives to encourage buyer behaviour that will reduce costs and emissions, while minimising delivery van downtime and improve productivity.

Continuous Optimisation Extends Experience

To achieve this continuous optimisation of the customer offer retailers need to work with logistics providers – internal or third party – that have evolved beyond the blunt, daily batch route scheduling model. Using real-time demand data to continually refine delivery routes not only enables retailers to use pricing to influence customer behaviour to improve optimisation but also allows companies to offer far more specific delivery times, including half hour windows. In addition, by continuously assessing capacity and fulfilment requirements in advance, logistics companies can better forecast resources – a key consideration given the shortage of HGV and van drivers.

In addition, real-time route data provides essential information to keep customers up to date on the progress of the delivery. From ‘you are next on the delivery list’ to apologies for delays due to accidents, timely and relevant communication is a fundamental component of a good customer delivery experience.

Furthermore, with the ability to continuously optimise a route, even on the day of delivery, retailers can begin to effectively combine deliveries with returns collections, further enhancing the customer experience. By extending this information on inbound stock deliveries plus delivery / return options to in-store staff, Store Associates can replicate this frictionless retail model, reinforcing the consistent customer experience across all channels.


A frictionless experience is without a doubt key to retaining customers in a challenging market but it is essential to consider every aspect of that interaction, from social media posts to customer delivery and return. Blanket delivery pricing options are no longer good enough – for either customers or retailers. Retailers that actively use virtual real-time stock and delivery capacity information can not only transform the customer experience but also encourage customer behaviour to support specific goals – such as reducing emissions.

Indeed, the improvement in productivity and reduction in empty miles is just the start – the future will be far more collaborative. With this level of real-time information 3PLs can start to share deliveries to improve the experience, using intelligent routing to avoid city centres, reduce inefficiencies and cut emissions. Retailers can work together, sharing click & collect services, for example, to improve the customer experience. Effective utilisation of virtual real-time data is providing retailers with the chance to reimagine frictionless retail and truly deliver an experience that will delight the customer.


Founded in 1936, Thorlux Lighting is the largest company within the F W Thorpe Plc group, operating from a modern 16,882 square metre self-contained factory in Redditch, Worcestershire. The company designs and manufactures industrial and commercial lighting equipment, with a particular focus on energy saving and through life costs.

Thorlux is able to exploit recent advances in LED technology to help meet customer demand for energy-efficient high performance solutions. The company’s considerable technical expertise and its ability to invest position it to maximise the opportunities offered by LED technology.

Thorlux offers a wide range of lighting solutions for the Retail sector. These include front of house solutions, as well back of house, external and emergency lighting fixtures.

Grafix is an innovative and high performance track mounted spotlight luminaire, ideal for retail applications. Available in a range of wattages with the choice of a highly efficient diamond faceted reflector in narrow, medium and wide beam, or Xquare optics which features interchangeable lenses for very precise control of light. High performance CRI90 LEDs are used to ensure high quality colour rendering as well as a choice of 4000K neutral white, or 3000K warm white appearance.

As well as manufacturing luminaires, Thorlux also develops its own control systems. The most recent is the revolutionary wireless lighting control system, SmartScan, which allows users to monitor their energy performance data and complete operational status information for all SmartScan standard and emergency luminaires. This information is displayed on the SmartScan website which can be accessed from anywhere using a computer, laptop, tablet or smart-phone.

The system is designed to efficiently control all internal and external lighting and automatically test all emergency lighting, providing central reporting and diagnostics. It monitors energy usage for all lighting, displaying the results in a graphic dashboard on any device with an internet connection.

Thorlux is committed to minimising the environmental impact of both its manufacturing processes and products and the company’s innovative carbon offsetting scheme has been accredited to the Woodland Carbon Code in Wales, an independent standard to certify woodland creation projects that are designed to measure and account for the capture.

Do you specialise in Display Props & Materials for retail? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Retail Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on different parts of the retail market – in March we’ll be focussing on Display Props & Materials solutions.

It’s all part of our new ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help retail buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Display Props & Materials solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Courtney Saggers on

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Mar – Display Props & Materials
Apr – Graphics
May – Interactive Displays
June – Lighting
July – Marketing
Aug – POS
Sept – Retail Design
Oct – Shop Equipment
Nov – Window Displays
Dec – Shop Fronts/Entrances

For more information on any of the above, contact Courtney Saggers on

See what’s in store at the Total Security Summit

There’s a complimentary guest pass reserved for you at the Total Security Summit – Can you join us?

30 & 31 March – Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted

This unique event is entirely FREE for you to attend – simply reserve your place here for the opportunity to:-

• Source new innovative and budget-saving suppliers
• Learn from inspirational seminar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders
• Network with like-minded senior professionals
• Enjoy complimentary overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments, plus an invitation to our networking dinner

RSVP now to avoid disappointment!

This is what – and who – you’ll see at the Retail Shopfitting & Display Summit

We have just two complimentary guest passes available for the Retail & Shopfitting Display Summit – This unique event takes place on March 9th & 10th at the Radisson Blu, London Stansted.

Register here for the opportunity to:

• Meet with innovative suppliers for a series of face-to-face, pre-arranged meetings based on your own requirements.
• Network with like-minded peers.
• Attend a series of insightful seminar sessions.
• Receive complimentary overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments, plus an invitation to our networking dinner.

Our seminar programme includes:

The Psychology of the Consumer – by Andrew & Zana Busby, Retail Reflections
Visual Merchandising & Retail – by Davy Pitoors, Louis Vuitton
Format Development: The Only Constant is Change – by Simon Bentley
The Happiness of Being You – Danny Bent, Little Red Shorts

You will be joining representatives from the likes of:

Co op
Co op
Costcutter Supermarket Group
David M Robertson
Dixons Carphone
Hotel Chocolat
Huda Beauty
Hush Homeware
KTM Online T/A Fonehouse
L’Oreal UK
Louis Vuitton
Michael Kors
Merlin Entertainments
Oak Furniture Land
Office Shoes
RAF Museum Enterprises Ltd
Quiz Clothing
Save the Children
Shoe Zone
Superdrug / AS Watson
The Body Shop
The Range
Topps Tiles
Vivienne Westwood
Walls Ice Cream
WH Smiths

Would you like to join them? Register here!