Back to Brick-and-Mortar: Livingbox Focus on Instore Retail Experience

While many retailers are moving towards ecommerce and away from instore, one particular shop is succeeding by going against the grain.

Independent retailer, Livingbox, has closed its website, opting to focus on the instore retail experience offered instead of its online sales. Modern Retail interviewed the store’s Owner, Nina Best, on her decision to say goodbye to ecommerce, and hello to brick-and-mortar.

Nina explained how she is already reaping the benefits of closing down what was a successful online store and spoke about the ways other retailers could benefit from focusing their efforts on the high street.

MR: What was your experience of starting a store online?

NB: “I used to work in Harrods, so have always had an eye for retail and when I saw that the Livingbox brand was being sold, I knew I had to snap it up. At the time, everything was moving towards the internet and I was really keen for it. Online is fantastic, especially if you have a young family because it is super flexible and once you have a great client base it works fantastically.”

MR: Why did you switch away from online?

NB: “When I thought about how I like to shop… it’s to go to nice market towns like ours in Shropshire and shop at the independent stores, getting items which you can’t get anywhere else. We grew to sell half cookware and half contemporary gifts… but there is so much competition now and supermarkets bringing out similar ranges to us. Because of this, online had become a bit too saturated in what we’re known for.

“We spotted a unit and felt the need to go back to face-to-face sales. It’s actually the part that I really love but I knew it was a big decision as the website made good money. Having switched away from online, I get to dress the shop and chat to people again while saving the time I used to spend updating the website.”

MR: Having taken the website down, will you be using social media?

NB: “We have taken our website down completely but are carrying on with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Our shop is so colourful that social media is perfect to share vibrant imagery of our store and we’ve found that many locals will see items on social media and come in to ask for them. Instagram is the way I shop now… If I’m in an area and have a certain amount of time, I’ll look on social media to see what’s in the area and decide if it’s suitable for me. I think social media is so important in retail.”

MR: What was the reaction when you told people you were stopping selling online?

NB: “When we tell people we have closed our website down online and they won’t be able to shop on it, people are so surprised. But we know we’ve made the right decision even if it is a big step in a different direction.”

MR: What has changed since you focused on the instore retail experience?

NB: “I’m getting to the point now where locals come in on a daily basis and the shop is being recognised for having a personal service. Customers remember what you spoke about last time they visited and having a high street shop, you recognise the same faces. It’s not only daily customers, with some who visit less often, but return to see what has changed and enjoy the experience.

“An instore experience also means customers spend time browsing and they get to touch and feel the products they are going to purchase, making every visit special.

“Of course it was different to get rid of the online store, but if it becomes oversaturated online, there are more benefits to staying ahead of the crowd and doing something different.”

MR: If you could give one piece of advice to anybody else looking to focus more on their instore experience, what would it be?

NB: “I’ll have to give three. The first is keeping your shop as attractive as possible and having that point of difference. Once I’d secured the unit for the Livingbox, I spent three months really doing my research. I didn’t steal any ideas because I didn’t want to do what others are doing. I went into countless shops and looked for gaps in the market. I’ve just installed a bright pink piano instore which has been a hit with customers. But you have to stay ahead of the rest because somebody will always follow suit and you have to move on to the next big thing.

“The second is giving that personal experience to shoppers – just being friendly and saying hi, whether it’s a chat about the weather or the traffic. It makes such a difference to speak face-to-face with customers and it makes it memorable and fun for them.

“Finally, and the biggest for me, would be to make the most of social media. I don’t think I would be as successful without it and it’s a great way to make people aware of what you’re doing.”