What IS “The New Role of Retail?”

Despite the harsh reality of the economic turmoil that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, Sheridan&Co’s Co-Founder and Chairman, Michael Sheridan, – believes that the future of retail is looking positive.

During our recent MASTERcast’ event, in association with Sheridan&Co: “The New Role of Retail,” Michael explained how COVID-19 has catapulted the retail industry through change, – into a new space. 

Retailers across the planet (in a wide array of different industries) have been forced to adapt, and go through massive transformations, accelerating us into a new retail era, bringing future trends from the pre-COVID19 climate into the now: “it’s a fantastic time,” said Michael: “I’ve always criticised retail for being somewhat slow-moving, but now, our world is about demand and supply, rather than supply and demand. That is a huge shift, and a huge change.”

Consumers are much more thoughtful now, about what they need, when they need it, how they need it, whether it’s something they’re going to use short term and give back, or whether they’re going to be concerned about the future of that product, or that item in terms of its’ recyclability. 

Some journalists named digital “the death of the high street.” As a retail expert, Michael feels differently: he believes that the high street is “redefining itself in an urban sense,” when it comes to how consumers now live their lives. Everything has to adapt to survive, and the high street is no different.

For example, John Lewis made a deal with Westminster City Council which enabled them to use up to 45% of their flagship store for office space. And Harrods have been looking into converting some of their upper floors into accommodation, as well, much like the luxury gym company Equinox, who opened their first Equinox Hotel a few years ago to expand their customer experience far beyond the doors of their gyms.

“There will be a group of people out there that will be delighted to be able to say, yeah… I live above Harrods.” This presents a new way for retailers to get people closer to their physical stores. And whether it’s John Lewis having offices in Oxford Street, or something else, they’re creating a local community.

“We were already thinking about how we want to shop: do we want to shop digitally? Do we want to shop physically? How can we bring those things closer together? During the pandemic, the rise of TikTok created a fantastic window of opportunity for them, even in the physical realms.”

“As soon as we can get out back into physical spaces, you’ll see TikTok in Westfield putting on an event that’s a digital event, but in a real life situation. THAT to me, is a clear understanding of the fact that digital and physical can both work together, and that they need to work together.”

Retail repurposing is also a great opportunity: retail MUST become a pleasurable experience: a delight for its customers, and not necessarily just an opportunity for them to go away with a bag full of products. How are you going to make them feel? Look at it as an interview space: find out what people’s interests are, and how they may vary.

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Another thing to come out of the pandemic was the importance of local people supporting their local communities in many different ways, whether it was from a charitable perspective, or by supporting their local shops and businesses, – a lot of which has continued into our current reality.

“Being local” no longer means that customers have to move out into a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, because local environments are being created within the “urban space” itself. For instance, the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris is looking at how to include workshops, entertainment, home health, and education, within 15 minutes of where people live.

“We’re going to see this shift from having to jump on a tube or a bus to get to a particular location, to looking around us and realising that yes, I can satisfy my shopping needs. And this is a fantastic opportunity for retail. This really is the kick up the ass that it’s needed since the last recession in 2008. We all thought that this would happen in 2008, but it never did.”

During the pandemic, the Sheridan family launched FOKUS garden rooms. FOKUS designs and builds unique, tailored indoor spaces for your garden. These spaces can be used for offices, recreation spaces, and more. You can find out more about FOKUS garden rooms here.

“I have never in all of my 40+ years of working in retail, – provided a b2c product. It’s always been b2b. And here I am, now, – talking to people about how they’re going to use this space, what’s valuable to them, and what the triggers are for them in terms of this working for them,” said Michael.

And the demand for these new spaces fits perfectly with the newly-found desire for people who want to continue working from home on a permanent basis. Having everything they could possibly ever need, – closer to their home, – will become more important, and proximity will play a big part in people’s decisions on where to go, and where to buy, moving forward.

You can download the full report here, – to get full access to these insights, and more.

You can also watch the full video of the event below.