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Retail’s future rests on innovation and customer experience

Building on the unique advantages offered by retail environments over online shopping, Paper Plus Group has unveiled a new concept store in Christchurch designed to optimise customer experiences.

The Barrington Mall store is the flagship premises in the first phase of a transformation project underway at the 35-year old nationwide book and stationery retailer.

Paper Plus Group CEO Sam Shosanya says retailers must innovate and sharpen their focus on the unique selling points which distinguish on-premise shopping from online stores.

“This is an exciting time to be in bricks and mortar retail. The game is changing, and Paper Plus is evolving to deliver experiences which customers find welcoming and which encourage them to spend more time in- store,” he says.

The concept store is the result of extensive market research from across North America, Europe and Asia, applying best practice from global retail leaders. The new outlet is designed around multiple ‘experiential zones’ targeted at adults and children. These include spaces to personalise products, try the range of stationery and play with latest games and toys. It also includes a community calendar to show local events and a mini-library where customers can exchange books with other community members.

Shosanya says the future of retail isn’t just about robots and automation. “Instead, it’s also about being hyper-local and creating personalised experiences which build on retail’s inherent advantages. You can’t touch, see and feel online. You can in your local bookstore. And with the concept store, these attributes are magnified and enhanced with a welcoming and engaging environment which puts community at the core,” he explains.

With 115 stores nationwide, Paper Plus Group has designed a ‘kit of parts’ which equips franchise owners to cost-effectively convert their outlet to a concept store. This approach provides for customisation, with individual store owners able to select options which are most relevant for their customers’ and budget. “The ‘kit of parts’ is flexible to meet different retail formats and takes into account Paper Plus’ innovative offerings, too,” adds Shosanya.

The group have also developed joint ventures including an in-house publishing business (in partnership with industry publishing expert, Bill Honeybone) and a wholesale sourcing business with United Sourcing Group. “These businesses give us a greater ability to add value to our sourcing and supply chain, enabling us to bring to market great value exclusive products that our customers have long been asking for,” he notes.

Paper Plus is not alone in its confidence in the future of on-premise retail. Apple’s Angela Ahrendts, speaking at the recent Cannes Lions Festival, says retail isn’t dying, but must evolve to serve a bigger purpose than selling. In her presentation she explained how McKinsey predicts that in the next five years, 75 percent of people will shop online, but 75 percent of the business will still be done in physical stores.

And a recent Facebook IQ survey found that even with online shopping as an option, people still enjoy shopping at specialist local stores. On average, people visit up to seven local businesses per month, spending between 40-55 percent of their total monthly budgets on local products and services.


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