Yesterday, I visited the new Black concept store launched by electronics retailer Dixons Retail in Birmingham, UK. I thought I would share my initial impressions with you, before an extended article appears on Planet Retail’s website.
A new type of electronics store
The 1,400 square metre store is spread over three floors and located on Birmingham’s High Street, close to the Bullring shopping centre. The store offers a reduced range of SKUs with no large white goods. Instead, the focus is clearly on premium and the latest ‘must-have’ gadgets. As a result, there are no economy private labels, such as Currys Essentials, and promotional activity is modest. The result is a store which is proud to showcase the latest and greatest in the world of technology. In fact, the Black name was chosen because of its associations with premium and quality.
One of the new aspects of the store is the ‘collections’ area which can be found immediately on the left of the ground floor and highlights a range of products based around a particular theme. At the time of our visit, the theme was ‘New Year’s resolutions’ and products in the range included exercise products (heart rate monitors), healthy-living kitchen appliances (food processors) and interactive video games consoles (the Wii and Xbox Kinect). The idea is that the collections area will change depending on seasons and events. Collections in the run-up to Christmas included ‘Objects of Desire’ and ‘Driving Home for Christmas’.
The first floor is probably the most exciting. A relatively large area near the front of the store is given over to Knowhow customer services. Customers can relax in chairs, access the internet via laptops, read the latest technology magazines or listen to a number of workshops run by employees. While the workshops are unlikely to be of value to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of the subject, they are seen as an important way to portray Dixons as a purveyor of advice rather than simply an environment where goods are sold to consumers.
Shifting to a less price-led approach has freed up Dixons to try some experimental new approaches. Prime space, for example, is given over to eye-catching displays, such as a car in the front window and fashion mannequins near the entrance, which aside from simply attract attention, attempt to portray technology as a lifestyle accessory.
In contract to its name, the store actually has a fresh feel with white walls, plenty of natural light (helped by the glass front) and fresh graphics. Instore messages, such as ‘love at first sight’ and ‘new you ahead’ also have a softer feel, replacing the promotional messages often associated in a typical electronics store.
Black is unlikely to see a significant roll-out to a large number of new locations. However, if the first store is successful there is no doubt that the format could be opened in a handful of new city centre locations. Perhaps more interestingly, Dixons is using Black to trial a number of new disciplines, aspects of which could be replicated across the wider estate in the coming years.
Whatever the future, Dixons Retail should once again be applauded for its bold and innovative approach. The past two years have seen it emerge as one of the most dynamic electronics retailers globally and there seems little to suggest it is going to rest on its laurels in the coming years.