This month, the must-anticipated Microsoft store opened its doors on Regent Street, marking a huge moment for London’s West End. The global tech giant chose our district to open its first European store featuring brand new experiences never seen before in London’s’ retail heartland.
Along with Microsoft, the past year has seen a number of previously online-only brands such as fast-fashion e-tailer Boohoo.com, luxury retailer MatchesFashion and checkout-free Amazon Go choose the West End to open their first physical stores.
This shift in the West End retail landscape reflects the wider evolution of the retail sector, with companies responding to changing customer demands and shopping behaviours. Stores are no longer simply places where purchases occur. They need to go beyond the transaction, offering new experiences, learning and a place where communities are created and nurtured.
With consumers demanding more from companies, from sustainable supply chains and ethically produced products to high quality customer service at all times of the day, it is more important than ever to know who is walking into your store and what they want. In the face of these preferences, intelligent brands that can blend technology with in-store experience will maximise their appeal to consumers.
That’s why we’re launching our Big Data Project with PwC, which will offer companies across the West End in-depth demographic analysis of their customers to help them understand who is coming through their doors, before they arrive. These insights will help businesses forecast and plan with accuracy, providing a better service to their consumers.
While the West End continues to attract innovative brands, companies and talent, there is no doubt that the retail sector as a whole is facing unprecedented challenges. The Government needs to address Sky-high business rates, rigid Sunday trading hours in the International Centres and more flexible building use to ensure a bright future for the nation’s high streets. Resolving these issues will level the playing field for high street retailers and pave the way for brands such as Microsoft to continue driving the retail industry’s structural transformation, enhancing the experience of shopping on the high street, making it a destination for experiences, socialising and community.