Changes in Habit

I often pass The Old Vic Theatre in London on route to the Studio, South Bank or Tate Modern. Or more accurately, I pass a queue of hopeful theatre-goer’s seeking tickets. I often want to stop and join the queue but alas I have places to go, people to see…

It did however make me think- in retail terms- when did I last feel compelled (as someone who detests queuing) to join a queue, or experience butterfly excitement, for anything retail?

For my personal answer to this question, (and I would be really interested to hear your answer to the same question?) I would need to go back to the early Nineties, queuing on a Saturday morning outside the Patrick Cox store on Sloane Street London, in anticipation of owning a pair of Wannabe loafers. I bought a black pair. I think displayed in the V&A today is a pair of Wannabe’s in metallic snakeskin.

Patrick Cox designed for Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano, and the Wannabe was Patrick’s diffusion range under his own brand brought to the high street. The Wannabe’s themselves, the Patrick Cox fleur-de-lys logo, and the silver and white shoe-box they came in (and plastic shoe-horn inside)- remain fond and powerful brand memories for me. It was a purchase I had saved up for, and the brand experience didn’t disappoint- its one I’m pleased to say captured me hook, line and sinker.

The only recent ‘retail queue’ I have witnessed was a queuing system in Chanel on Bond Street London. I thought it must be hype or a sale, on closer examination it was neither. Simply a busy Saturday morning, maintaining service standards, and customers making multiple purchases, in near desperation to own something with CC monogram on it.

As for butterfly excitement?

The last retail threshold I crossed where I had this feeling was Jessica McCormack in London. For one to measure on the Richter scale, I would need to look beyond retail and to a museum, for example The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Qatar, designed by I. M. Pei. Beyond that, queuing or real excitement as you step into a brand, is sadly few and far between at the moment, and a safe ‘samey’ look and hesitation prevails up and down the high street.

The increase footfall to the theatre and exhibitions, whether it’s a sold out show at The Old Vic or an exhibition at the V&A (they curate them so well), demonstrates a huge consumer thirst for experience, entertainment, social engagement, and learning. We now live in an omnichannel retail world, and the importance of getting the consumer’s heart racing: to visit; experience; be entertained; and shop (whether there and then, or on their smart phone whenever convenient)- is more important (and more exciting) an opportunity and blank retail canvas than ever before.

While a big fan of looking at the past (in retail strategy terms) for provenance, authenticity, and heritage- I would like to see (and champion) more looking forward in retail. Brave, bold, disruptive entrepreneurism- adapting and tackling global ‘changes in habit’- and to be pioneering in this new world. Patrick Cox saw an opportunity and went for it- and I like that spirit.