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VA Waterfront Cape Town Checkers. Photo: Robin Tyson

Times are tough, in Namibia and elsewhere. The good thing is everyone is in the same boat. In New York as in Windhoek. Same but different. The bad thing: Namibia has a vulnerable small market.

The reasons for the local retail apocalypse in Namibia are manifold:  Consumer spending is down, competition by big multi-national retailers ruthless and near insane rentals by predatory retail property owners bondage most smaller retailers into failure. Import taxes on clothing imports make high end clothing brands near unaffordable to most in Namibia, and the Import VAT system drains scarce small business cashflow resources into oblivion. Then there is corruption at all levels, capital flight, the oil price affecting the Angolan economy, a wanting education system, and the list goes on.

Stores do not only close in the shopping malls of Windhoek and Oshikango or in the centre of Walvis Bay. They close in the UK as they do in the USA. The global trends may be different in origin but although they negatively affect stores in Namibia, they may just hold some solutions.

As the world becomes more and more virtual, people increasingly crave physical experiences. As a result, the store won’t die, said Doug Stephens, a US retail industry futurist, founder of Retail Prophet and author of “Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World.”

But in order to survive, they must change. “Media is becoming the store,” he said, pointing to the rise of online product experiences. “As a result, stores must become media… stores are the most powerful, measurable, manageable form of media that a brand has at disposal.”

“Stores can’t be just about distributing products,” he explained. “They need to be about distributing experiences — less stores, more stories,” Stephens says. That means putting less emphasis on shopping and more emphasis on entertainment, hospitality and community.

“Experiences with friends are what plays well on Instagram — more than products,” noted Stephens. “Why can’t communal experiences and shopping come together?” he continued, suggesting a new formula for retail: community plus a great physical environment plus great products.

He demonstrates his point with a striking analogy, showing a slide of a basic London bus stop. “This is retail for the last hundred years — functional,” he said, before flashing up a slide of a new model bus stop in Montréal, featuring playground-style swings. Infinitely more experiential, communal and fun — what retail must become to survive.

Robin Tyson form Windhoek remarks: “Stores are the new media! Very very interesting. I think the SuperSpar model is very clever – get’s one into the store for coffee and conversation, newspapers and free wifi – then one buys stuff. Look at the new Checkers Canal Walk. Free wifi, upmarket coffee shop (capuccino for R15) and super decor and lighting. Stores are now like a film set!”

Conny Pimenta writes: Absolutely. I love to have a great experience in any kind of shop which is really about a great vibe and excellent service. Even Exclusive Books works for me.
Found a shop on the Main Street in Amsterdam called Drake’s Boutique. At the entrance the sign says: We don’t do normal. If you’re not rich, don’t come in.
It worked like a bomb – lights, music, tiny shop. So at any given time it is full coz people want to experience it even though it’s a tiny niche market they cater for. Selfies with products were posted by customers and voila, free publicity.”

VA Waterfront Checkers Cape Town. Photo: Robin Tyson

Leon Engelbrecht adds: “Yes, let’s push Namibian brands and creativity into the limelight. So much opportunity if you’re willing to look. It’s in the toughest of times where the best ideas and concepts are born.”

The Inspiration Tables concept is also worth integrating into the standard retail experience. Leon Engelbrecht Design has a great concept at his “Pop-Up” Store in Maerua Mall. He designs and produces in his shop and people can buy from him directly. The selfies with products is a good one also, but you need to get the people into the store first. Lighting plays a major role in creating the base of a customer experience, but there is so much more to be done.

The good thing is that everyone is in the same boat, Montreal or Windhoek. Yet only those flexible enough to take on different and somewhat unconventional business strategies may emerge safely.

Additional Source:  Sept 2018

Checkers photos contributed by Robin Tyson