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Retail win-win

Sports venue retail concession spaces can add real value to the visitor experience. How can stadia and arenas apply retail best practice to push performance and develop brand loyalty?

Anyone who works in sport knows that success is hard won. Retail can be just as unforgiving. So, while sports teams may enjoy a level of loyalty that is far from the reach of your average high street retailer, stadia and arenas keen to invest in concession space and improve retail performance can still learn much from established retail practices.

Soccer, the national game in the UK, is often linked to the phrase “a game of two-halves” – in which each half of the match has a very a different character. Most sporting venues are also divided into two distinct periods – fixture and non-fixture trading days.

When sports venues draw their biggest crowds, shopping is invariably not the main event. As a result, dwell time in-store is often limited, with customers more focused on finding their seats and soaking up the atmosphere. However, outside of the big event, retail concession spaces can help venues to establish themselves as a genuine destination and meeting place. This requires concessions to exhibit a warmth and personality that invites people in – making them feel welcome and encouraging them to stay.

To achieve this balance, venues need to create a shopping environment that is commercially and visually focused towards the needs of the shopper. This means learning to ‘think like a customer’, developing a critical-eye and embarking upon the relentless pursuit of the highest retail standards.

Visual merchandising’s (VM) role in delivering retail success is often thought to be limited to creating impactful window displays. It’s not. Put simply, effective VM encompasses everything from store layout and product merchandising to point-of-sale (POS), choice of fixtures, price ticketing and even good housekeeping. For me, it is, and always has been, about delivering a truly great brand and customer experience at every touchpoint along the shopping journey.

Within sports retail concessions, as within department stores and malls, many of the general principles of retail apply, in that an effective promotional layout will drive footfall and additional sales. With tens of thousands of people descending on concessions in such a concentrated period of time, bad retail practices can quickly be exposed such as weak layout planning, poor use of space and inefficient customer flow. These can make concession spaces far from practical, or enjoyable to shop.

Retail concessions can help divide physical space into different specialists zones, giving visitors a clear destination for their needs. But, more importantly, they can allow customers to clearly segment product offers and present them with small groups of product choices – essential to securing sales conversion when customers have limited time to give to their shopping mission.

Promotional space must also make sense – customers can be easily influenced if they are presented with logical promotions that they feel they must buy. And, importantly, displays must be able to support the day’s sales while maintaining visual presentation standards. Visually poor displays will negatively impact on the shopping experience and, ultimately, damage the wider venue brand. POS must also be implemented correctly or it may drastically weaken the impact and purpose of promotional messages.

Increased visitor footfall also brings with it the need to maintain POS standards doubly hard. Disheveled displays won’t show products at their best – resulting in lost sales. It is also important to add uniformity to the retail experience within a venue without detracting from the individual identities of the brands operating concessions. Furthermore, the overall space has to offer an environment within which each individual brand is allowed to express itself.

The most important thing to remember is that retail success, like any team sport, is often a result of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Retail teams with the knowledge and skills needed to implement improved product presentation standards, can be the cornerstone of enhancing the brand experience, inspiring customers and driving sales.

Karl McKeever is the founder and managing director of Visual Thinking, which specializes in visual merchandising, brand delivery and retail performance improvement. Karl and his team have created strategies for the likes of Harley-Davidson, Wilko, Marks & Spencer, IKEA, Sainsbury’s, O2, John Lewis and Coles.

 

 

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