Retail entrepreneur and small business advocate Theo Paphitis has championed hybrid retail – the mix of physical and online retailing. As well as highlighting the growth in convenience and localised shopping, he urged would-be retailers to take the opportunity now to open physical stores and revealed that his businesses are looking to open more stores and have identified 200 sites to investigate.
Speaking at Autumn Fair, Theo said: “Now is the time to do it, with lower rental costs and lower business rates, I can only see opportunities for physical retail to grow again. There is no better time to open a physical store.”
On the impact of COVIDhe said; “It’s been the most amazing retail experiment. We’ve had so many conversations in the Board about closing stores over the years, but COVID has been a forced experiment that has allowed us to just focus on online. It has also made customers more used to technology, and now we can enjoy hybrid retailing – giving customers what they want, when they want it, and meeting their different expectations for both.”
Since it’s official launch on Sunday, the Curated Meetings programme has delivered more than 400 face to face meetings between buyers and exhibitors. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Priya Crowe from London-based retailer Lark said after her meetings: “Curated Meetings is excellent. It’s been a fantastic way to meet business owners to discuss ideas and bounce off each other. There have been lots of companies I wouldn’t naturally have spoken to, and I’ve placed really big orders through this process. It’s been really beneficial.”
The positive feedback continued across the rest of the show. Bruce Bell, marketing director of Gallery said; “We are delighted to be back in the room with our dear clients and friends. Customers are happy to shop and be back in front of product once again. We have launched new ranges and products at Autumn Fair, including, textile, outdoor living, gifts, and Christmas. Our launch of Sofa In A Box has been a huge success. This has been a recording breaking Autumn Fair, and we are extremely excited for and looking forward to Spring Fair, where we will have an even bigger presence.”