Fewer, but Better: The Road Ahead

Despite the pandemic, stores across Europe continue to open – some for the first time
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Posted November 17, 2020

Walking through my local neighborhood, there’s a lot that’s closed at the moment, shops mostly. Some of them will reopen when we emerge from the latest lockdown in December (all being relatively well/better), but there will be others whose doors will remain closed until another tenant comes along prepared to pick up the baton.

Yet at a moment when COVID-19 continues to ravage high streets, economies and families, there is hope. A vaccine may not charge to the rescue until 2021, but meanwhile shops, almost counter-intuitively, keep opening.

In Amsterdam, for instance, a four-story spa-cum-beauty shop, a new flagship for Dutch beauty brand Rituals, has opened. This is enormous by the standards of the sector and will certainly be a destination for those who find themselves in the city center (it has taken the place of Esprit, which had been there for years). Staying with beauty, the new Freshly Cosmetics beauty store in Madrid is a thing of (excuse me) beauty and is the brand’s second store: the first was in Barcelona. In Glasgow meanwhile, quirky furniture retailer Timothy Oulton has opened its first standalone store judging, presumably, that the time is right to welcome shoppers to a Timmy O shop, rather than examining its wares in a host emporium.

All of which is a long way round (there are plenty of other new stores across Europe that have recently flung wide their doors for the first time) of saying that not everybody has buried their head in the sand. ”Fewer, but better”, might actually be the summary when it comes to shops post-pandemic. Almost every new store currently seems worth giving the once over. This has to be the case, otherwise the shopper might as well sit in front of a laptop and do the necessary.

Things will be better, although the form that “better” takes remains open to dispute.

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.