Speaking at the Drapers Digital Festival, David Al-Mudallal, COO of Frasers Group, revealed that the company is investing £ 250million in digital services, including a new app. Simultaneously this year it revamped its flagship Sports Direct on Oxford Street for £ 10million and bought Robin Retail Park in Wigan for £ 40million.
Speaking to Drapers editor-in-chief Kirsty McGregor, Al-Mudallal said his biggest digital investments will be a new consumer app, which he says will be a game-changer and is expected to launch in six to nine months. The app will offer purchases across all brands in the Frasers Group portfolio as well as omnichannel services such as online ordering and return to store and a loyalty program to collect points when customers purchase in-store or online.
“We continue to focus on bricks and mortar with in-line as an added advantage of the brand. [Physical retail] is a special experience that everyone basically wants, even if they say they don’t think they are doing it, ”Al-Mudallal said.
Despite the shift to online shopping during the pandemic, Frasers saw strong sales in physical stores, Al-Mudallal said: “We have seen high conversion since the pandemic. The stores are less busy but the sales are not, people come with an incentive to buy.
It also introduced digital offerings in physical stores, such as gait analysis for coaches, and a game to test how high you can jump compared to famous athletes.
Al-Mudallal said it’s important to avoid using in-store digital activations as a gimmick, however: “Sometimes you can go too far with this. Sometimes retailers over-invest in all of these services to the point of becoming a bit trendy. I have certainly seen it in some stores that I have been to around the world, where after a while it just sits around unused. Don’t go overboard with this.
He added that physical retail remains the most important point of sale for the brands Frasers works with: “Our vision is to serve our consumers with the best sports, luxury and luxury brands in the world. To do this, we need the brands, and the brands want a high proposition. We can provide that physical experience that brands don’t necessarily do themselves all the time.
As part of this high physical supply, Al-Mudallal said he believes that department stores can still thrive, but that they will be much smaller than they have been in the past: “I don’t think so. not that you will come back to the 200,000 square feet – 300,000 square foot store that you have had historically. I think it will be more like our Flannels stores, which are 55,000 square feet, maybe up to 100,000 square feet.
“It’s much more exciting. You can always include services, whether it’s a Barry’s Bootcamp [workout], or providing food and drink, or beauty services. You can do it in this space and I think it looks a lot more interactive. It also keeps you honest about introducing new brands and losing brands that aren’t necessarily doing very well. “