Bike shop staff urged to be “entertainers” by Dutch retail expert

Designer workshops, organising training sessions or offering customised products made on the spot: These were some of the concepts described at the World Sports Forum last week, focusing on the future of sports retailing.

The WSF was organised by the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) in Munich. 

The future of sports retailing and the shift toward online sales was discussed by John Terra, retail research director at Q&A, a Dutch retail insights firm. He advocated that retailers should turn their stores into "points of engagement."

Terra’s research suggests that there could be an over-capacity of retail space reaching up to 20 percent in some developed markets, due to the growing market share of online retailing. An estimated 40 percent of consumers prefer to buy their sports and outdoor equipment online.

"Stores have to rethink their concept to make sure that people want to go there,” said Terra.

His analysis was backed up by a white paper on customer engagement in retail stores published by Ebeltoft, an alliance of retail consulting firms with members in more than twenty markets. 

Terra explained that the decisions of consumers for shopping destinations are chiefly guided by efficiency, expertise and experience. He acknowledged that online retailers are hard to beat in terms of efficiency, but added that their physical counterparts may still adjust their own concept to offer some of the same advantages.

New Dutch retailers are focusing on an efficient customer journey, such as in-store tablets that enable consumers to access a wider range of products online.

However, Terra argued that experience is often the most compelling way for retailers to draw consumers away from their keyboards and into physical stores. In Germany’s Globetrotter stores customers can try out kayaks indoors or test clothing in an “Arctic room.” 

In stores as points of engagement, retail staff are no longer just selling products they are trainers, guides or even artists. “Staff recruitment and training should focus on the right skills, to make sure that employees are really eager to assist or even entertain customers,” said Terra.

Stores in busy shopping streets should work most intensely on experience, because such locations tend to generate impulsive buying; while stores in smaller cities tend to be targeted for planned customer journeys, which makes expertise more valuable.

Efforts to create retail experiences are all the more relevant since "digital natives" have become a dominant force in global consumption, outnumbering the "digital immigrants," said Terra. These consumers have to be engaged, preferably with an experience that may be shared.

“Sports retailing has huge potential to make the difference on points of engagement compared to other retail sectors, due to the products that they sell, the knowledge that they require and the passion of their customers,” concluded Terra. 

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