ICSC CONFERENCE: Retailers rethink the future


Physical stores remain at the heart of retailers’ plans, delegates heard at this year’s ICSC European conference in Warsaw.


Toy store SMYK, fashion retailers Desigual and LPP (the company behind Reserved, Sinsay, Mohito, Cropp and House), and cosmetic retailer Sephora all confirmed their commitment to bricks-and-mortar retailing.

However, none of the retailers ruled out a reshuffle of their real estate. Krzysztof Bocianowski, leasing and expansion director at LPP, said: ‘We want bigger stores, probably less of them, but they must be convenient. Customers are changing their behaviour. They need stores to buy and collect their goods.’

Maciej Dyjas, member of the supervisory board of Smyk and co-CEO at Griffin Real Estate, added: ‘We are focusing on dominant assets in town centres which are convenient, but we have invested heavily in our online platform. We want to become more of a marketplace. We believe in stores in city centres which can also be pick up points and places of entertainment.’

Physical stores are key to Sephora’s strategy. ‘Experiential retail brings in consumers,’ said Hervé Montaner, the retailer’s Europe and Middle East expansion director.  ‘Customers like to try and test mak-eup and perfume. The experience in the store itself is energizing and vibrant, it is a very specific experience. We really want to make our stores a place to experiment.’

Desigual aims to offer a 360° experience, not just a vibrant physical environment. ‘We have to adapt in the way we interact with our customers,’ said Angeles Pérez de Arenaza, head of construction and property management at the fashion retailer. ‘We want to give our customers an experience that includes Facebook, Instagram etc. We are continually working on improving the customer experience. It’s not about simply purchasing in our stores, but living Desigual.’

But technology shouldn’t get in the way of authentic customer interaction, warn the retailers. It should also be used as a tool to help customer service, raise standards and improve efficiency, added Sephora’s Montaner. ‘We are in a very specific market. For us it’s about continuing to improve the customer experience inside the store. We are selling more or less the same products as our competition, people come to Sephora because of the atmosphere so we have to deliver a unique experience.’