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The Space Race

In an era shaped by the virtual over the tactile, defining the role of bricks and mortar stores in the wider mix of consumer touch points is an increasingly critical component of how today’s retailers position themselves in the market.

While so much attention has focused on the impact of online shopping, according to PwC’s 2015 consumer survey, bricks and mortar stores are still the primary destination for shoppers. Of the 19,000 people surveyed globally, the vast majority indicated they preferred to visit stores to ‘touch and feel’ products.

‘The physical store remains the retail touch point with the highest frequency, driving retailers to transform in-store experiences with differentiated storefronts that turn stores into ultimate shopping destinations,’ the report explains.

For the Cotton On Group, where online sales currently contribute to around 3 percent of its total revenue annually, the role of its network of over 1300 stores is significant. Joining other retailers striving to create exciting and unique shopping environments, the Group is finding new and innovative ways to deliver spaces that not only reflect the essence of its brands, but also keep up with the evolving demands of its customers around the world.

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Setting The Pace

In the months leading up to Christmas – the busiest trade period of the year – the Cotton On Group will open 153 stores globally. Equating to over one store a day, the rate will break the Group’s own record from the same time last year which saw the retailer open the doors of 60 new stores in 60 days.

It’s an impressive pace and one that is fuelled by the Group’s store development team who are charged with designing, creating and delivering stores as quickly as the business and its customers demand.

“We usually have anywhere from 50 to 70 new stores on our work schedule at any one time,” says Ruth Barras, one of six Store Designers in the Group.

“This includes stores at all stages of the process from planning and design through to construction and fit out.”

It’s a huge undertaking but one that Robert Kenny, Group Executive, Property, says is expertly managed by a global team of store developers, designers and planners.

“We’re able to deliver world class retail spaces at the speed and standard that we do because we have the best team in the business,” Kenny says.

“Our people have years of combined experience – their can-do attitude, creativity and energy is what makes us different.”

The Group’s ability to turn around stores so quickly has much to do with the innovative structure of its store development team. Rather than outsourcing work to external agencies or firms, each part of the process from design to completion is managed in-house by the Group. The retailer has even established its own construction team to build and install store fit outs.

Kenny says the approach streamlines the design and development process, allowing the retailer to open new spaces at an industry leading speed.

“Our people live and breathe this every day. They know our business, our brands and our customers much better than an external agency ever could so it allows things to happen very quickly and efficiently,” he says.

“It makes us a really unique proposition in the market – I don’t know that there are many other retailers doing what we’re doing – but it has proved to be really successful and instrumental in supporting the expansion of the business.”

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This is an article extract from the Cotton On Group's latest edition of The Issue. To read the full article click here.

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