Amazon recently opened a pop-up store in London to raise awareness of its ‘Black Friday’ sale event, with the shop taking on an appearance similar to many independent, quirky high street shops. The move follows last year’s news that the e-commerce giant is also planning to launch a chain of physical book stores, while Waterstones recently opened a line of small, unbranded, independent-seeming stores. The news comes just ahead of Small Business Saturday (2 December) – a growing movement that celebrates independent business.
Over recent months, retail experts have been commenting on changes taking place on the high street, as online players like Amazon open their first brick and mortar stores, and consumers continue to seek out unique experiences. With Small Business Saturday approaching, the ripples come at an interesting time for high street business owners, including local florists.
In an article commenting on the launch of a line of Waterstones’ new small unbranded book stores, The Guardian wrote: “The lack of concern among independents reflects the healthy state of the sector. After a torrid time thanks to Amazon, supermarkets and rising ebook sales, independents looked to be in terminal decline. By 2014, the number of independents in the UK had fallen below 1,000. But in the past two years a revival has taken place, fuelled by rising print sales and declining digital book sales.”
Another example comes from music retailer HMV, which is also seeing a return to our high streets with the re-opening of a store in Brighton. The Guardian commented, “It is close to wresting the title of UK’s biggest music and DVD retailer back from Amazon as Britons rediscover the charm of actually going into a shop and buying a CD or a record… The stricken business was rescued by the little-known turnaround firm Hilco, which has also been involved with Habitat and Clinton Cards in the past. Its chairman Paul McGowan says the commonly held view that digital (music) was killing the physical “was never true”… “All we are doing is making sure that when you come to our stores you enjoy the experience,” continues McGowan. “This is about being an authority in music, not selling music as a commodity.””
That concept of ‘commodity’ is often discussed when referring to changes taking place in the florist sector, too. As part of our December issue, Florist Business spoke to James Frost, UK chief marketing officer at Worldpay, who commented on the emerging trend.
He said: “When it first floated 20 years ago, Amazon was valued at $438m; today it is worth $467bn. Online behemoths like Amazon might seem a long way from the average independent florist, but in today’s increasingly technology driven society, the company’s approach contains a number of useful lessons that any business can emulate.
“Amazon is known as an online store, but its decision last year to launch a chain of bricks-and-mortar bookstores also shows an understanding that the battle for consumer spend is not a straight fight between online and traditional channels. Today’s mobile-enabled consumers want shops to behave like they do, moving seamlessly from offline to online. In short, they want more flexibility – and are prepared to reward those that provide a more connected customer journey across all channels.”
The Black Friday experience
Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year, so visitors to the recent Amazon pop-up store in Soho Square were able to sample Amazon’s biggest Black Friday sale items, including jewellery, beauty products, electronics and toys. Amazon also offered interactive workshops with some of their ‘Marketplace’ and ‘Handmade’ sellers. Located in the heart of London, the shop was designed to look and feel like a home, containing a kitchen, living room, bedroom and more.
Visitors to the shop were able to take part in numerous free activities on offer, including a make-up tutorial with YouTube star and beauty expert Lottie Tomlinson, cooking demos by TV chef Gizzi Erskine, workshops from Marketplace Artisans, like candle making with Cozy Glow and jewellery making with Clutch and Clasp, and sampling tasty treats from chocolatiers Godiva and Lavolio, Joe & Seph’s popcorn, cocktail tastings including a sampling from Absolut. Customers could shop the products on display by using the scan and buy feature on the Amazon App.
With a permanent physical store already in the US, Amazon is yet to open one in the UK, but the company’s recent focus on activities like this – which encourage physical interaction and unique customer experience – shows the concept could hold worth, both for online giants and the many others battling for consumer spend.
Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday UK is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.
The day itself takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses. In 2017 Small Business Saturday is on Saturday, December 2nd. Its aim is for customers across the UK go out and support all types of small businesses; online, in offices and in stores. Many small businesses take part in the day by hosting events and offering discounts.
In 2016, customers spent £717m with small businesses on the day, an increase of 15% on 2015 spending. Over 140,000 tweets were sent on the day, reaching 130 million people, trending on Twitter in the UK and globally. Plus, over 80% of local authorities across the UK actively supported the campaign in a variety of ways, from networking events to free parking.