Amazing to see Officemax’s recent announcement of its plan to close its 14 store retail network and move to an online only model

Covid is acting like a pressure cooker on business models – compressing a change process that might have dribbled on over years into just a matter of months. The “pivot” that might otherwise have been merely chatted through over a few drinks can now find itself green-lit in a matter of weeks as businesses look intensely at their survival prospects amongst the unknowns of a covid world.

The pressure on some commercial landlords must be intense with hits felt from not only the the changes we see in the retail sector, but also from the rise of the working from home phenomena.

As always supply and demand will continue to drive decisions and following what must surely be some period of falling rents (particularly in the more marginal locations) retail will no doubt reemerge with a reenergised bricks and mortar presence – but what form will that presence take? People like to shop, they like to be entertained – they want something to do! Physical retailers have to do more to satisfy these requirements – and at the same time get the benefit of having real live customers in their shops – talking to staff, asking questions, giving feedback – actions that are terribly valuable and which can justify an “expensive” retail presence if it is done well.

A lot of retail signage is boring, lowest common denominator stuff – driven by thin margins and the perceived need to get bang for buck. This will change – successful retailers will need signage that lives up to rest of their post-covid offering. Signage that excites, communicates and promotes a conversation. This takes a rethink and a focus on truly creative and thoughtful design – a search for materials and processes that stand out – and that signage be treated as a key part of the marketing function, not a forgotten, process driven footnote in property management.

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