Many moons ago I used to live in Dorset, just outside Poole to be precise. And in those days the children were primary school age and we used to take them along to the nearby Paulton’s Park to enjoy the rides and amusements.
What struck me was that I never ever saw a serving (or past for that matter) Prime Minister whilst I was there. Because, as you’ll no doubt be aware, Paulton’s Park is also now home to Peppa Pig World. And this week, that got a rather unexpected boost from Boris Johnson when he visited, and then proceeded to regale a confused audience of his experience, during his speech to the CBI conference of all places.
And as our current Prime Minister enthusiastically beseeched us all to go and visit that hotbed of UK creativity, I was reminded of our trips there with the children. But creativity and innovation? I conjured with that notion for a moment, including the rather unfortunate detail that Peppa Pig’s parent company Entertainment One was bought by US giant Hasbro, which owns My Little Pony and Play-Doh, in the summer of 2019.
But more than the bumbling, stumbling speech, lurching from one titter to another, it had me in mind of retail creativity and innovation. And not only that, is there anything that retail can learn from a pig that ‘looks like a hairdryer’?
Time was in retail when no-one had heard of omni-channel and the Twitter bearpit hadn’t been thought of. A time when we used to refer to the concept of retail theatre to describe great in-store customer experience. And then that awful term ‘experiential’ arrived, and referring to ‘retail theatre’, inexplicably became, well, a bit naff. Consigned forever to retail room 101. Or so it seemed.
Fast forward to today and whether we’re using the term or not, retail theatre is once again taking centre stage (pun intended).
Retail has traditionally shunned learning from other sectors, however, now, more than ever, retail, hospitality and entertainment are practically joined at the hip, such has been the pace of change within the industry. It’s just that retail hasn’t noticed. That is, until now.
Because if there’s on thing this pandemic has done, it’s to provide not just a welcome opportunity for a degree of pruning but given those who remain, a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset. And that’s good news for stores.
If there’s one thing a theme park must be in order to be successful, that’s to be engaging and interactive, customers absorbing themselves in something of a fantasy world; one far away from the anxieties of their everyday lives. Shouldn’t stores be the same?
Just last week, the CEO of a well known fashion retailer proclaimed that his new flagship store on Oxford Street, was, “the most experiential store on Oxford Street, possibly in London”. But it still had racks and racks of garments, piles of folded tops and rows and rows of coats. It all feels rather uninspiring.
One brand, which made a few inroads into this experiential cul-de-sac a few years ago, was when it introduced freezers into its stores so you could actually try out their jackets in a real life environment. Canada Goose then hit their own distinct set of buffers from animal rights campaigners. However this remains a great example of the power of stores and why true customer experience needs to involve some or all the senses.
So, if you’re a retail director or retail operations professional reading this, take a day out of the rarefied environment of head office and don’t even go on store visits. Instead take yourself off to the nearest theme park and see how they do things there.
You never know, Peppa might just provide some porcine inspiration.