Monash University consumer and retail expert Dr Eloise Zoppos has revealed the three key ingredients to maintaining a healthy retail business in difficult conditions. 

Despite a string of retailers entering voluntary administration at the beginning of 2020, Monash University's Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) unit found that 71% of Australian consumers like to shop at physical stores 'always' or 'most of the time.' 

Dr Zoppos suggests that the reason why some retailers are struggling while others are flourishing is down to a power shift. 

"Customers are seizing control of the retail landscape and those retailers not up to the change are being left behind," she said. 

According to ACRS, the three key elements to weathering the tough conditions are a great store experience, a clear offering and a seamless omnichannel experience. 

"Consumers need to have a great in-store retail experience – otherwise, what’s the point of shopping in a physical store?

"Friendly and knowledgeable staff and an eye-catching yet easy-to-navigate store design can help create memorable experiences that customers can share with their friends after their purchase.

"Secondly, retailers need to be clear on their target customer.

"It can be argued Bardot suffered because it did not have a clear offering in its product range.

"Its clothing line included outfits for a night out, but also corporate chic. Customers were confused about whether the store was for them.

"Finally, the physical store and online offering should be seamless and this includes a speedy click-and-collect option.

"This was one of Jeanwest’s downfalls, as click-and-collect was only available for collection in three to seven days from time of purchase."

Zoppos adds that international giant Zara is a retailer who understands these elements. 

"Zara is a great example of a retailer who gets it.

"Visit just about any Zara store around the world and there is always a line for the change room and the register.

"They have great service both in-store and online, with an efficient click-and-collect option and a customer-friendly returns policy," she said.

Dr Zoppos further suggests that Zara's change room policy is another customer-led key differentiator.

"They allow you to take in up to 10 items at a time.

"This means you can take in a couple of different sizes to compare the fit as you go, and also mix and match your items.

"Some retailers allow you just four items and they insist on you leaving the rest with them which makes it too complicated," she said. 

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