The shop-within-shop trend is attracting the attention of retailers across the industry, which see a variety of opportunities to fill vacant space or create new and exciting shopping experiences.  A familiar sight in our airports and train stations for many years, some retailers are now using the approach to consolidate multiple brands within shared outlets, while leading digital players are using it to launch on the High Street for the first time.  Similarly, ‘limited time’ shops-within-shops are helping build profitable partnerships between large retailers and their smaller counterparts.

A hot trend in UK retail

The examples are increasingly varied.  Last year, the Post Office announced that it planned to increase the number of outlets within the WHSmith store network to more than 200.  Sports retailer Decathlon has built a network of 18 stores within Asda outlets around the UK and Poundland recently announced Pep&Co clothing shop-within-shops in five of its UK stores.

One of the most high-profile examples of the shop-within-shop approach followed Sainsbury’s acquisition of Argos in 2016.  There are now around 290 in-store Argos outlets across the Sainsbury’s estate. As well as offering a broader shopping experience for both sets of customers, the concept has also enabled Sainsbury’s to control costs during a period of intense pressure on bricks and mortar retail. 

The trend isn’t confined to permanent locations within existing premises.  Shops popping up for ‘a limited time only’ are offering exciting new experiences for shoppers, while providing a way for retailers to open high street outlets at specific times of the year, trial new store concepts or to take advantage of temporary opportunities. 

Earlier in the year, Amazon announced it would open 10 ‘Clicks and Mortar’ pop-up shops in UK town centres.  Slightly more conservatively, eBay also opened its first pop-up shop in Wolverhampton, with both organisations doing so to offer dozens of small online retailers the chance to try out a brick and mortar location.  And in the weeks approaching Christmas, many UK high retailers will welcome the arrival of short-term seasonal stores, where entrepreneurial brands are brought into existing shopping spaces for our most intense spending season.

Retail opportunities = technology challenges

What many of these situations have in common is the need to quickly establish high-performance, reliable and secure network connectivity.  Whether it’s payment processing, connectivity with a wider network/head office, or providing Internet access for customers, it’s an absolute ‘must-have’ from day one.

In some cases, third-party retailers may be required to bring their own network and internet connectivity with them.  This may be for reasons of security or network performance, but keeping other businesses completely off the existing infrastructure is often the preferred method for the ‘host’ retailer in protecting their own interests.

When a shop-within-a-shop is asked to provide its own connectivity, logistics can be difficult.  Getting wired broadband access in a particular part of the store may be difficult or even impossible.  Even if cost isn’t a concern, potential installation delays for traditional fixed line connectivity can be a major issue — especially if there’s a strict deadline for opening day.

The challenges don’t end there.  A shop-within-shop is virtually never provided with IT experts, which means Internet downtime and related network issues usually require third-party service visits.  This is expensive and could leave critical applications such as Point-of-Sale down for a disastrous amount of time.

Where there’s a will, there’s wireless

If retailers are to make the most of the shop-within-shop opportunity, these challenges have to be overcome, and many are turning to solutions powered by mobile wireless connectivity to meet their needs.

With cloud-managed all-in-one branch routers featuring embedded high-performance wireless 4G LTE as the primary link, IT teams can ensure ‘Day-1’ connectivity at new locations, saving the time it takes to wait for a wired link.  With this solution, businesses can open locations on schedule without the network holding them back. Later, if a wired connection is up and running, the organisation can use that same multi-WAN primary router to either load balance between wired and wireless links or use the wireless link for failover.   Many retailers will not need a wired connection at all.

Some wireless solutions can be set up even without IT staff on location.  Cloud features for ‘zero-touch’ deployment provide secure Internet and corporate network access immediately.  A store manager can get the router up and running within just a couple minutes, for example.

It’s an approach that also helps effectively address the perennial issue of IT security.  Even without any access to the main store’s network and security applications, the shop-within-shop can protect important customer and company data through an all-in-one LTE branch router with a built-in firewall and support for cloud-based security services — providing peace of mind for both the big-box store and the smaller enterprise.

Retailers shouldn’t be deterred from pursuing a shop-within-shop strategy because technology gets in the way.  Using LTE-based wireless connections to ‘join the dots’ to bring the shop-within-shop approach together can make a huge difference to everyone involved and work as an enabler to continued High Street retail success.