Prior to the international health crisis, some retailers began sharing their retail space. This involved quite literally bringing different retail concepts, whether owned by the same company or exclusively, into the same physical shop space. It is far from a concept adopted solely by forward-thinking small, independent retailers. In fact, there are examples of nationwide stores doing much the same, and to great success, too.
In recent years, you are likely to have seen Post Offices appear, not as standalone stores but hosted inside newsagents and high street retailers like WHSmith. Argos, after being bought by Sainsbury’s began to appear inside the supermarket’s major stores, joining other businesses, such as cafes and currency exchanges, that have enjoyed the benefit of shared spaces for some time.
For smaller and first-time retail concepts, this has manifested itself as concept spaces. Businesses have come together, often those that are complementary in product or service, to reduce their overheads by taking on a retail space together, sharing display space and shop shelving. Larger retail spaces are able to be taken on by a small collective, with fashion retailers, barbers, and cafes, as an example, creating a space that both contributes and receives benefits from their neighbours. A customer wanting a new outfit may also be inclined to a haircut, just as those needing to visit a post office may use the time to pick up groceries.
Some retailers have trialled shared space collaborations during pop-up events. Instead of committing to long-term cooperation with other retailers and concepts, they will, instead, act as a host for the duration of an event. Beyond the benefit of increased sales, as customers are drawn in to experience the new and exciting shopping experience, such events can also offer a great opportunity to smaller retailers who are given a platform by more established businesses. Collaborations may also lead to more resourcefulness, allowing retailers to pool their essential items and equipment, from stand offs to storage space, improving expenditure and environmental impact.
And, in reverse, established retailers can benefit from a partnership with smaller retailers too, earning local favour by supporting well-regarded independent businesses or those with well-advertised standards and store ethics. Stores, such as Harvey Nichols, do well to improve the fashion and style of their own brand aesthetic by welcoming in local stylists and beauticians, encouraging shoppers not only to purchase from both businesses but to associate their positive reputations.
While there are numerous proven benefits to shared retail spaces, they have yet to become more ubiquitous across the high street, kept more often to open-plan retail park stores or alternative shopping spaces. Now, at a time when retailers are experiencing great pressure to maintain sales figures and recover their lockdown losses, it seems a logical pursuit. Costs could be reduced and an essential vitality could help to encourage customers to the high street. Those businesses willing to be more dynamic could find their flexibility rewarded, much like those who were early adopters of now standard retail practices, such as contactless checkouts.