Rebel recently opened its third ‘accelerate’ concept store in Sydney’s Miranda Westfield as part of its push to give customers an enhanced retail experience. Retailbiz sat down with Rebel’s executive general manager for retail, Wayne Tozer, to find out where the sports retailer is heading.
Firstly, how would you describe the accelerate concept?
When we look at our retail landscape, we have many different demographics and locations that we divide into three stores: benchmark, which is the everyday basic store; elevate stores; and then the accelerate stores.
These are premium stores. They’ve got extra zones, extra digital, extra fixtures [and] they’re relevant to the market that they’re in. Bondi, Chatswood, Miranda and, very soon, Chadstone are the kind of markets we see them being suitable for because we feel the consumers are expecting that kind of retail experience.
So the concept was driven by customers demanding a premium experience?
It was driven by a number of factors. One is the shopping centres themselves. If you look at Macquarie or Miranda shopping centres 10 years ago, there has been a significant change in the fit out of the shops and the centres themselves.
International retailers have come to the market and elevated the experience and expectation in those centres. Their investment in their stores is significant and you can sense that the centre has not only elevated itself but the retail outlets have gone along with it.
The other part would be our customer. We feel that when a customer comes into those shopping centres they have an expectation of what the experience is going to be like due to the environment they’re walking into. If you’re not matching or meeting those expectations, then you’re behind.
That’s why we took the step of building the accelerate stores in the specific areas we feel those customers have those higher expectations.
What can consumers expect to find in an accelerate store?
We’ve tried to make them look like a ‘stadium of sport’… The goal is you enter the store like you’d enter a stadium, you think you’re walking into the grand final at the MCG.
We make the initial experience far more engaging than a traditional store would be [with digital screens and extensive visual merchandising]. Then we add things like connect sensors with the screens, so we can get motion engagement as well. We’ve future-proofed the design from a digital perspective.
We’re also taking it to the level of assessing and personalising solutions. We’ve put podiatrists [and] bra fitters, so you can make sure you’re getting the right fit, and gait analysis machines as well.
We’ll be putting personal trainers in store that will be able to help you understand what you’re trying to achieve, and provide you with not just product but the experience in terms of training, running clubs, races, whatever you need to help support you in becoming your personal best at the sport of your choice.
How have you measured the success of the new stores?
The customer response is the most important thing for us in terms of these stores, not just from a revenue perspective but from a feedback perspective… The new stores have grown dramatically in [customer] ratings, which tell us that the customers are finding product knowledge, counter experience, price, and stock availability are all at improved levels.
So the feedback is there and the financial results are there, showing that not only are customers loving to come to the stores, but they love being involved in finding the right products and solutions of choice.
You’re planning to launch accelerate at Chadstone shopping centre next, do you have plans beyond this?
The plan is to open four, then asses them. They’re not all identical—as we’ve gone forward we’ve left things out that we haven’t go right yet and we’ve moved things in that we haven’t tried yet—so we’ll look at what’s worked in each of the four stores, bring them back to alignment, and then look at taking the things that have worked really well into other stores before we roll out more accelerate stores.
How does Rebel’s online store fit in with this bricks and mortar push?
We’re trying as much as we can to make sure that online and the experience in our bricks business is cohesive; you shouldn’t feel any difference between the two.
Our online drives and supports our retail bricks business. The stock on hand widget on our screen is a highly used part of our site—customers like to research a product before they come to the store, and find out whether the store has stock or not.
In saying that, our number one trading store is our online store from a revenue perspective. It’s growing, and its growth is bigger than any of our stores at the moment. The growth of online, although from a lower base, is certainly starting to exceed any of our other stores. However in terms of the percentage of sales it’s certainly much lower than our bricks business.
Where do you see Rebel in five or 10 years’ time?
My sense is the next phase of our iteration is looking at how we can personalise it a bit more in store. Maybe you come to the store, you’re a Wallabies fan, and somehow the digital interaction is very Wallabies orientated.
Digital technology and interaction with mobile and Wi-Fi will morph together to give you that ability to create a more personalised service when people shop with you.
Retail and bricks will continue to go together…but as you go further along the journey the ability to give people what they want, when they want, and how they want will be something we’ll be working more towards.
And finally, how would you describe the Rebel approach to retail?
The Rebel business is about allowing people to participate in sport, rather than sell product… We’re trying to move ourselves from being a product-centric retailer to a solution and customer-centric retailer. We’re not there yet but that’s the journey we’re on.
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