There are three types of retailers that "color" the current landscape: mass retailers, high-end speciality (concept) department stores and community entrepreneurs.
Until recently mass retailers like H&M and Zara were major players, closely watched by a range of global "competitors". While the followers were trying to copy the moves of their idols, they were carefully planning a strategy to secure their future. H&M answered the market's growing request for quality and simplicity by launching the COS stores and the recently opened &Other Stories are fulfilling the need to update one's wardrobe with accessories and specific fashion items. Zara on the other hand is closing down smaller stores in non profitable areas and opening or rebuilding larger stores aiming for a better retail or fashion experience. Not to mention the fact that they are extremely aware of the importance and growth potential in online sales.
On a level of department stores the ones to win the battle for turnover are the mini departments stores like Colette & Merci in Paris or Hutspot in Amsterdam focusing on unique items for a contemporary crowd. Their strategy is to operate from exclusive and challenging retail spaces, avoiding a mainstream assortment while profiling their stores as a kind of multi-disciplinary total experience.
(Concepts like Selfridges in London are one of a kind and why should you try to copy it and do the same trick on other locations?)
The start of the "community entrepreneur" trend was firstly noticed in f.i. Williamsburg & Brooklyn in New York, followed by the Shoreditch area in London and off-the-grid areas in many other cities around the world. Besides sharing and cherishing the community spirit, another keyword for post-crisis retailers is "heritage"! It is about waving goodbye to short term gain and hollow marketing soundbites.
What are the lessons to be learned?
* Focus on quality, not quantity
* Sometimes it is smarter to close stores than to open more
* Be aware of the fact that your company strategy and concept might be (soon) outdated!
* Opt for a multi-channel approach of the customer
I hear you saying and what about Primark? ... I can only say, "how much longer can we justify that we buy a pair of trousers for € 9,- or t-shirts for € 4,-" ...