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Reimagine Stores to Enhance the Shopping Experience

Fashion retailers must alter the shopping experience in several specific ways to kick start productivity and recapture lost value.

As online sales increase and more shoppers are doing a greater amount of their purchasing online, performance at physical stores is suffering. While the number of stores may be still be increasing among best-practice retailers, overall productivity per store is stagnating—or declining. (Stores are even under pressure in the apparel segment, where 85% of clothes are still bought in stores.) To meet this challenge, stores may have to be re-imagined to create richer shopping experiences that reflect their customers' needs and shopping preferences.

Here are some lessons learned from BCG's work with women’s fashion retailers:

  • Design an intuitive navigation that inspires and provides easy access. Women often browse without an explicit goal, making impulse buys based on trends. On other excursions, women have a clear shopping objective and actively search for fashion based on specific activities or categories. Fashion retail stores can be optimized to meet both needs, especially those with larger floors and “standard” products, creating a more intuitive shopping experience.
  • Offer more areas with outfits rather than single categories. Women often shop for outfits for specific activities, including formal events, celebrations, relaxing at home, sports and leisure, work, and sleeping. Building in-store areas centered on outfits adds value to consumers by making the shopping experience easier.
  • Match categories to excitement levels. Women differentiate categories of shopping by their excitement. “Passionate” categories evoke emotions for shopping and women’s “love to shop.” In “rational” categories, women treat clothes as a necessity and they “work to shop.” Store designs should reflect this distinction.
  • Arrange presentation according to consumer preferences. Women separate shopping areas by creativity versus structure. Creative presentation areas can feature aspirational outfit ideas that women desire. Structured presentation areas, by contrast, are more functional, and present goods so that they can be easily searched.
  • The ideal consumer-centric store serves women's needs with an intuitive layout. Retailers should divide store locations into specific areas that meet different needs. Impulse areas require creativity and an easy-to-buy shopping experience, and they serve as a first impression to pull customers into the store. Target areas require structure, as the consumer is willing to spend time shopping; these areas can be positioned in the middle or back of the store layout. Intimacy areas require privacy and can be located at the ends and corners of the store.
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