Why multi-sensory shopping could save the high street

Fresh from two days of innovation and insight at ICSC European Conference in London, Shelley Matthews, European Retail Capital Markets, JLL, explains why the future of retail is all about ‘place making’.

In the UK, there are more farmers’ markets opening than branches of Tesco, it’s indicative of the multi-sensory shopping phenomenon that is currently sweeping Europe and it was a dominant theme at ICSC Europe.1

Despite the undisputed rise of eCommerce, the message is clear: people want to shop in a physicalenvironment. But, more than that, they want this environment to be entertaining and even educational. This is a topic that JLL has been discussing as part of our Redefining Retail Places research project.

The retail experience

At ICSC’s European Conference, the retail community sought to better understand how their own offering could adapt to cater to this new demand for ‘experiential’ retail.

“Somewhere along the way we lost the experience of retailing in the quest for the transaction,”

said Ross Bailey of Appear Here – an online market place for pop-up shops. He spoke about the future of retail being more than bricks and mortar and said people want to ‘learn, play and share’.

Making retail places

In agreement was Beverley Churchill, Creative Director at Capco. When talking about London’s Covent Garden she said,

“people make places.”

It’s a good case in point: until recently, Londoners had turned their back on Covent Garden, the central London enclave of shops, restaurants and residential, which is peppered with street entertainers. It was typically seen as a tourist hotspot but, today, 50 percent of visitors to Covent Garden are now locals as more people go in search of authentic retail experiences.

Creating an environment that people want to visit is paramount. Today’s shoppers want to meet for great food, conversation and experiences.

In a mall, this could mean making use of previously unlettable space, such as basements or roof space, for entertainment concepts such as theatres, aquariums or even theme parks. But in compact areas such as Covent Garden, this means being creative with space. The buildings may be 400 years old, yet they still serve today’s retailers and consumers.

Some of the best examples of creative retail space come in the form of pop-up shops. Designed to attract footfall over a period of, say, two days to three months, these spaces are designed to create memories, rather than simply sell ‘stuff’.


Reverting to medieval market square style retail concepts may seem counterintuitive in a digital age, but there are great examples of these working hand in hand.  De 9 Straatjes in Amsterdam, the 400 year old UNESCO Heritage listed Canal Belt district is marketed as a ‘21st Century village’ and it illustrates how a high street can combine multiple concepts into a single, branded identity, to become much more than the sum of its parts. The strong marketing strategy behind  De 9 Straatjes is complemented by a transactional website, enabling online shoppers to buy from any of the stores on one single platform – a model for the future of high street retail.

As Ross Bailey said,
“the internet could save the high street”.

Find out more the future role of the brick-and-mortar space against the backdrop of a new and constantly changing virtual world through JLL’s Redefining Retail Places research.

Find out more about De 9 Straatjes in JLL’s Amsterdam retail city profile.