Last week we published an article on how technology will impact the future of the high street in which we covered the importance of neighbourhood stores. There’s one sector that’s already got the best neighbourhood store infrastructure across our towns and cities and potentially holds the key to the new de-centralised high street, and that sector is supermarkets.
Last month John Lewis opened a new store in Wallingford, Oxfordshire but instead of its typical flagship format, this store was nestled inside a branch of Waitrose. There are 331 Waitrose stores in the UK and JLP’s chairwoman, Dame Sharon White would like most of these stores to feature a mini-John Lewis shop-in-shop. Though these mini stores will only sell lifestyle goods such as mugs, picture frames and cushions, much like Sainsbury’s sell Habitat homewares, the format gives shoppers easy and practical access to endless digital aisles. This coupled with the trend of micro-fulfilment centres and the new hybrid working practices we’re all likely to adopt, supermarkets could have a winning formula.
Two thirds of John Lewis’s £4.8 billion annual sales are forecast to be generated online by 2025, so building a robust digital and fulfilment infrastructure today is key to remaining competitive against the likes of Amazon. A question we must ask is, what does the customer experience look like? John Lewis has built a strong reputation on delivering exceptional human-centred service and though younger customers will be used to transacting across multiple digital touchpoints, an easily accessible human representative online could be the key to offering more than another ecommerce platform.