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The purpose of the store has shifted dramatically in the past few years. But while other department stores struggle to keep up with these changes, Selfridges has established itself as an outlier by doubling down on its physical retail strategy, as highlighted in BoF’s newest Case Study, “Can Selfridges Future-Proof the Department Store?” The British chain has transformed its storefronts into experiential hubs, decked out with pop-ups, restaurants, art installations and even a skateboarding bowl, to try to get consumers to spend as much time as possible within store walls.
“What we’re creating within the Selfridges stores is a destination,” said Andrew Keith, managing director of Selfridges. ”It’s about being able to create a space people want to go to for the day.”
On this week’s BoF Podcast, Keith joins BoF’s Imran Amed at Selfridges’ Oxford Street flagship during The BoF Professional Summit “What’s a Store For?” The two chat about how the pandemic has affected the retailer’s face-to-face focus, how the company — rumoured to be in discussions about a £4 billion ($5.6 billion) sale to an unknown buyer — is shoring up its e-commerce channels and what he sees for the fused future of digital and physical retail.
The pandemic decimated London tourism, which made Selfridges think more locally about its retail strategy, and in turn, built market share with domestic customers. From Birmingham to Manchester, Selfridges works with local creatives to make every store distinct in a way that engages with the particular place’s needs and aesthetics. “Each of these communities has its own diversity, it has its own entrepreneurial environment around it,” said Keith. “It’s important for us to be able to reflect that.”
The retailer may be investing in digital, but it is maintaining its focus on the curated and experiential aspects of its offering across channels because that’s what Keith says will set Selfridges apart from the seemingly endless e-commerce options. “Some of the pure-play retailers don’t have the same sort of richness that we can create with the fusion of physical and digital together,” said Keith.
As Selfridges continues to evolve its retail model, it’s experimenting with circularity, recycling and repair through initiatives like “Project Earth,” where it set targets for materials and partnership shifts, and “Resellfridges,” its resale and rental service. In doing so, the retailer is making fundamental changes to the metrics it uses for success. “We’re not only changing the way people shop, we’re also changing the way we approach business,” says Keith, adding that the company’s focus will shift to more sustainable metrics like longevity of customer lifecycle, balancing margin opportunities, and changing the way it looks at acquisition.