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Retail of the future?

Earlier this year, Tesco invited customers into its refurbished Tesco Extra store in Watford. The new-look store is being touted as the very latest thing-  nothing less than a ‘shopping and leisure destination’. With its moody lighting and clearly defined retail zones, it’s more like a department store than a supermarket. Speaking on the Design Week website, David Dalziel (group creative director at Dalziel & Pow) had this to say about the concept:

There’s much to admire in this ambitious fusion of value and indulgence shopping. The brand collaborations that form this offer are particularly eye-catching and reflect a growing consumer demand for authentic experiences.

The notion of giving consumers a more ‘human’ environment in which to shop is an appealing one. But here’s a note of caution from Alex Johns (managing partner at Worth Retail), speaking in The Drum:

Do the public really want everything under one roof? As a ‘traditional’ shopper I don’t really like the fact that a supermarket is turning itself into a department store where you can actually go and have lunch.

Retro store

So does Tesco’s recent venture really represent the retail experience of the future? It’s certainly sending a clear message to the online consumer. ‘If you think it’s cosy shopping from your sofa,’ it’s saying, ‘think how much more comfortable you could be in our warm and friendly store!’

But what if you’re not a fan of superstores, however well-dressed they are? Isn’t this just another nail in the coffin of the traditional high street? Isn’t this just the emperor of big business putting on new clothes?

Or might it just be the start of a trend that will help bring the high street back to life?

Think about it. If it’s comfort you’re after, what better shopping experience is there than the one you have on holiday? You’re relaxed, the sun’s shining, the kids are happy and here you are, strolling down a quaint little high street surrounded by boutique shops. Now imagine you can capture that feeling in a bottle. How do you distill it? How do you apply it to your home town?

You do it by creating retail environments that make you smile. Tesco’s new store, on one level at least, is an attempt to do that. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s a step in a new direction. And perhaps it will pave the way for smaller retailers to reclaim the territory they – and the great British public – once held so dear.