Fashion brand moves ‘from clicks to bricks’

With experiential stores and pop-up shops popping up en masse in the last few months, is the high street making a comeback? Gareth Newman, CEO of flourishing  Norfolk-based fashion brand Blakely Clothing, thinks so.

Blakely, founded in 2012, has primarily operated online, building a large social media community, although the brand has recently diversified successfully onto the high street.

Gareth explains, “Brick-and-mortar stores drive the human connection we are all missing. After three years of lockdown and an eCommerce boom, a whole new generation of brands were born through social advertising and the increase of online shopping.

“However, as we spend more and more time looking at our phones there could be a few reasons why consumers are looking to go back to the high street and shop in physical form. If the queues at Bicester Village over Christmas were anything to go by, shoppers are keener than ever to have the in-store experience.”

With overall in-person shopping footfall still 10 to 20% below pre-pandemic levels, it’s too early to speak of a total comeback. However, Gareth believes there certainly is an appetite for ‘IRL retail’, particularly in fashion.

“By returning to stores not only are consumers able to get a feel for the brand but also a feel for the item. In one interaction, the customer can understand the brand, its shoppers and the quality of the item they are purchasing.”

He sees ‘brick-and-mortar’ shops as a powerful way to build community and provide experiences that transcend the possibilities of just online shopping.

“An immersive shopping experience has a deeper impact on customer loyalty than an online one,” he points out. 

“Blakely is capitalising on this with pop-up shops, events and most recently a new permanent store in Stratford Westfield which held an opening event with customers, influencers and celebrity guests.

“Those looking to perhaps dip their toe into the yoga and wellness scene can arrive at an event and test out their new gym gear all at the same time. It is our ethos that brands which drive customer connection are more successful long term than those offering a surface level one.”

This year, Blakely plans to have the best of both worlds by developing the in-person shopping experience and building the brand’s community online and offline.

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