Brick and Mortar retail is not dead in a post-pandemic world

While brick-and-mortar retail has been hit hard due to Covid-19, it is still far from dead.
Hamiltons Advertising – a leading creative agency operating predominately in the retail
space – has already seen a return to traditional shopping through the increased consumer
dwell time in two recently opened client stores, Food Lover’s Market Waterfall Ridge and
Food Lover’s Market Paarl.

Says Lisa Currey – MD of Hamiltons Advertising, ”Consumers have increased the time
spent in stores now that South Africa is on Level 1. While not the case for supermarkets,
other sectors experienced the natural reluctance to shop in-store during the lockdown – but
as more people become vaccinated, we have seen customers welcome a return to all
traditional shopping. There is potentially a world of opportunity for brick-and-mortar
retailers who employ the right kind of savvy and innovation as shopping in person remains
a strong preference for many South Africans.”

According to a Mastercard study conducted in May of this year, South African online retail
has doubled in the past two years, largely because of the Covid-19 National Lockdown
and more people remaining home. However, the same study indicates that the growth rate
will be more subdued in the future as more people return to normal shopping behaviour
following the move to Level 1 and the vaccination rollout. All in all, online sales still only
account for 4% of retail in South Africa. Moreover, in the grocery space, consumers still
prefer to buy perishable items in-store as they can determine the freshness – a key reason
why in-store shopping dominates the grocery category.

How can brick-and-mortar retailers capitalise on this

To capitalise on this opportunity, retailers should create in-store experiences that inspire
customers to keep coming back. Says Currey, “Customers expect better in-store
experiences from retailers today, and I believe those expectations will only grow over the
years. Attention to detail, shareable moments, colour, theatre, layout and consistent visual
appeal are all crucial elements of a great customer experience.”
For Food Lover’s Market in Paarl, the team at Hamiltons rose to the challenge of
transforming a traditional bricks-and-mortar space into a theatre for food lovers, by
employing a slew of creative concepts to keep the customer informed, entertained and
engaged while shopping.

Says Currey, “We love the idea of departmental theatre and creating spaces where the
customer can feel closer and more engaged with the product to have a full sensory
shopping experience."

The Hamiltons team works closely with architects and project managers, as well as
contractors. The process of creative store design includes consultations with the client to
understand what they would like to achieve in their store, interpreting the architectural
plans and presenting creative mood boards and departmental mock-ups for approval.

Their one-stop-shop in-house solution makes for the speedy delivery of the project from
start to finish. Once the creative is signed off, the team project manages onsite installation
for a full turnkey solution.
And the shops of the future?

The shops of the future will focus on in-store design and ambiance that make you feel
good being there. It will reflect the brand identity and values through the deployment of
music, art, texture, and technology. Stores will focus on hospitality rather than traditional
retail, and areas of interest will be created throughout their space. Going to a brick-and-
mortar store will become a destination shopping experience that encourages customers to
browse, share and interact with the brand beyond just purchasing a product. It’s all about
adding value and convenience of the shop.

“In a hugely competitive market that is becoming increasingly noisy and commoditised, it is
important that a brand creates a fantastic customer experience to be the first choice as a
shopping destination. As retail becomes more competitive, Hamiltons aim is to future-proof
bricks-and-mortar clients by helping them create unique in-store experiences and spatial
identity – a turnkey solution from concept and design, through to implementation and with a
huge payload for the bottom line.”