10/31/2007 11:31:00 AM
Why women are better than men
To help expand its presence in more UK shopping centres, 3 has designed a new-look store that it hopes will overcome the reluctance of many shopping centre managers to sign up further mobile retailers.
Mobile networks' store expansion programmes have been so aggressive in recent years, as they have sought to generate greater levels of direct sales, that they have become almost ubiquitous on the high street and in shopping centres.
David Bickett, director of retail business development at 3, says: 'From a retail standpoint, in most markets mobile retailers are not seen as credible. To many key shopping centre managers, it appears that their numbers of SKUs [product lines] are minimal. And because of the number of phone retailers, the centre managers are cautious and are scrutinising them.'
To overcome this issue and differentiate its offer from the pack, 3 has designed a store with a much greater focus on female shoppers, which is especially important in shopping centres. 'We have to ensure a balance in the gender split, especially as centres are 80% female focused between 11am and 3pm [on weekdays]. As a technology retailer, you don't want to end up with no customers,' says Bickett.
3 has sought to 'de-emphasise the technology and re-emphasise what mobiles provide to the customer'. This involves many changes, including positioning a gondola down the middle of the stores and using 'live' handsets and PCs in a similar way to that adopted by the Apple stores.
A lighter Scandinavian timber is also being used, along with a 'saturated colour palate to warm up the stores'. Bickett adds: 'We've also created an area with cushions to sit on because research has shown this to be unisex, warmer and a lot more customer friendly.'
Following a trial of the new design in a 3 store in Maidenhead, a rollout to a number of shopping centres will be undertaken before the end of November, including The Ridings in Wakefield, Marble Place in Southport, Eastgate in Inverness and The Priory in Worksop.
Although 3 already has a presence in 98 of the top 100 shopping centres (based on the CACI classification), more are planned. Bickett suggests that there is an opportunity to add 100 more units through a phased rollout during 2008 that will involve a mix of additional units in certain larger centres, some new stores in smaller centres and more high street shops. The portfolio mix is predicted to remain 57% shopping centres and 43% high street.
These new stores will see the company grow beyond its current 370 outlets (which include 128 Superdrug concessions), of which almost 170 have been opened in the past 12 months. In August alone, an impressive 31 new stores were added.
High conversion rates
These new outlets require a footprint of only 750 square foot, which is significantly smaller than some of 3's earlier 2,000 square foot units. Bickett says that the company has found there to be a risk of the bigger stores feeling like 'museums'. As such, the trading areas of the larger units are being scaled back, with the excess square footage used for storage, back office, or in some cases, training areas.
The bias towards shopping centre stores is not surprising since they typically generate conversion rates of up to 20% higher than high street units.Bickett suggests this is down to the fact that shoppers are 'in the mindset to buy', compared with the high street where browsing is a frequent activity.
Shopping centres also benefit from having defined trading hours for their tenants, whereas store opening times on the high street are staggered, which often results in confusion among consumers.
However, Bickett says that defined trading hours remove the freedom for retailers to open later in the evening. Having found that the purchasing pattern of shoppers generally runs from 12pm onwards, 3 would prefer longer trading hours, according to Bickett. 'There is no point closing stores when people are there. We have seven-day trading, but late Thursday and Friday would also be beneficial.'
The company has also found that its stores in shopping centres tend to be more attractive working environments for younger employees, who Bickett says 'get a buzz from shopping in the centre themselves', while also avoiding the UK's erratic weather.