British retailers are resorting to creative measures to keep customers coming through the door amid a surge in online shopping.
They’re refitting their once bustling stores with new attractions such as rivals’ fashion brands to fill empty spaces, Reuters reports.
In a shift in strategy aimed at making the space profitable and avoiding store closures, retailers such as Tesco have also started experimenting with gyms and children’s play areas.
“You’ve got more choice. It’s a bit like a shopping mall where you can come and look at different things,” said healthcare worker Margaret O’Regan, who was browsing clothes from the privately held Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Evans brands in a huge Tesco store in Woolwich, southeast London.
The brands have 20,000 square feet of the store’s 120,000 sq. ft., replacing space previously taken up by Tesco’s toys, stationery and technology offer, some of which are now only available on its website.
In the four months since the brands went in, shopper numbers at the Woolwich store have risen.
A Tesco spokesman said the changes at Woolwich were illustrative of Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis’ strategy to turn around the business, giving shoppers more choice so they start to see superstores as the most convenient way to shop again.
“We are always looking at new ways our stores can meet the needs of local customers. We’re pleased with the feedback from customers in Woolwich who tell us they like the store’s convenient range of fashion options,” he said.
Thousands of small shops have disappeared from British towns in recent years, unable to compete with the lower costs and prices of online outfits and bluechip retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer could join the exodus.
“The UK is very advanced in terms of online shopping,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail research firm Conlumino.
“As other regions catch up with that they will experience similar problems and similar issues.”
Online sales in the UK as a percentage of total sales rose to 15.2 percent in 2015 from 13.5 percent in 2014, according to the Centre for Retail Research, compared with 11.6 percent in Germany, 8.0 percent in France and just 2.5 percent in Italy.
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