From its blue and gold logo to its Tammy Wells-fronted TV ads, Briscoes is one of New Zealand’s most recognisable homeware brands. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Kiwi home without a toaster or duvet cover they’ve purchased during an iconic Briscoes sale.
Established in 1781 in the UK, the first New Zealand-based Briscoes store and warehouse opened in 1862. In 2001, it became a public company and was listed on the NZX as part of Briscoe Group Ltd. They also own Rebel Sport and Living & Giving.
Today, there are 46 Briscoes stores operating across the country.
For many years, the brand’s retail fit-out has remained largely unchanged – apart from a few LED fittings and a change of colour palette. With such a strong brand proposition, Briscoes had found a winning formula – and as the old saying goes, why fix what isn’t broken?
But as Nick Turner, General Manager Retail Operations & Property, so rightly points out, retail has evolved drastically in the last decade – “we’re no longer in a ‘stack it high, make it fly’ era”. And while the rise of online shopping has been steep, it’s also shone a light on the importance of the in-store experience.
“The risk of not investing in your in-store experience, is you end up with this growing chasm between what you see online versus what you see in-store – and that can throw customers off” he explains.
Back in 2010, The Briscoe Group collaborated with Retail Dimension (RD) on a new fit-out for one of its Rebel Sport stores - and they’ve been working together ever since. So, when it came time to give one of its oldest Briscoes stores in St Lukes a modern facelift, Nick turned to the team at RD.
It can be somewhat daunting when you’re tasked with modernising a brand like Briscoes - there’s a fine line between hitting the nail on the head and completely missing the mark. But Nick knew the Retail Dimension team was more than capable.
“There was the potential for what we wanted to do to look really messy but given RD’s expertise – and their track record with Rebel Sport – I knew they’d be able to come up with some clever solutions.”
Despite the brand’s enduring success, its store fit-out had become “a little too mechanical”. This sentiment became the driving force behind the brief, which was to shake things up – without taking away from the familiarity of the brand that customers know and love.
Nick and his team wanted to incorporate more experiential and visual merchandising opportunities, and overall infuse more excitement into the retail experience.
Sometimes it’s the simplest changes that can have the greatest impact, and in this case, that couldn’t ring truer.
To create a brighter, lighter store, the carpet was removed, and replaced by a combination of hard floor coverings and polished concrete. Lighting levels were increased and are made more consistent throughout the store to eliminate any unwanted shadowing.
The customer service area is now comprised of individual counters, so shoppers benefit from a more personalised checkout experience. Click-and-collect storage has been added behind customer service to enable a seamless online order to in-store pick-up experience.
“A lot of the changes we’ve made are subtle but very clever. They’ve made a huge functional difference for our team – they can work more efficiently, get more product out, and it’s easier to keep the store tidy,” Nick says.
The RD team designed dedicated ‘impulse’ counter bars on heavy-duty caster wheels which allow Briscoes staff to quickly change the flow of the store to match the trading environment – “Monday to Friday, it’s a much more relaxed atmosphere. On the weekends, things can go crazy,” Nick explains.
Then there are the ‘experience tables’ which can be used for product demonstrations like Nespresso coffee machines. More bed displays and dining room tables throughout the store provide ‘inspo’ spaces and taller fixtures and bulk plinths allow more room for those hard-to-merchandise products like curtains and cushions.
When the new and improved St Lukes store reopened its doors in April 2021, the overall sentiment from customers was “they couldn’t believe it was Briscoes,” Nick laughs.
And from a sales perspective, the changes have had a visible effect. The store’s average basket spend has increased – that’s now sitting well above the company average.
Nick explains that aside from the obvious visual requirements, a big part of retail today for their store teams, suppliers, and customers, is reducing friction between the supply chain and in-store experience, so products can be moved easier and faster.
“To the untrained eye, it might not look like we’re changing a lot, but if we can remove the friction, get more product out and make it look better, then customers will dwell in-store longer and product moves faster. It’s a win-win for everyone,” he says.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, Nick says the retail sector has never faced more challenges than it does now: operating costs are (still) going up, there’s more competition from large online-only retailers, and traditional retail sales channels across the globe are slowing down. Throw in the mix a global pandemic and “the equation doesn’t look as pretty as it used to,” Nick adds.
But that doesn’t mean things are looking bleak. In fact, quite the opposite. Nick says that’s because their focus has – and always will be – on what the customer needs.
“It doesn’t matter what channel a customer chooses to shop through, the thing that matters the most to them is a good shopping experience.”
In 2020, online sales accounted for 15% of Briscoes total sales. That’s a substantial amount – over $120 million dollars – and all of that is serviced by their in-store teams.
That’s where the two worlds of online and in-store collide, and why it’s so important to invest in creating a harmonious shopping experience, Nick says.
“What I've seen - particularly after COVID-19 – is a very prompt movement to a digital customer, rather than an online versus in-store customer. It’s a rapid change and one that has a long way to play out.
“But what we do know is digital customers have the same expectations when they come in-store – that’s why we’re focusing on a refurbishment programme, because we recognise we do need to make sure we keep investing in the physical shopping experience too.”
Whatever your vision, scale, or special requirements, Retail Dimension can design and manufacture the right retail space for your business. Get in touch with the RD team today.