British retailers invite rival brands to fill their empty spaces

Sun Mar 6, 2016 4:17am EST
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By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) - As online deliveries surge and shop sales fall, Britain's retailers are looking to refit their once bustling superstores with new attractions such as rivals' fashion brands to fill empty spaces and keep shoppers coming through the door.

In a shift in strategy aimed at making the space profitable and avoiding store closures, retailers such as Tesco (TSCO.L: Quote) have also started experimenting with gyms and children’s play areas to entertain customers.

"You've got more choice. It's a bit like a shopping mall where you can come and look at different things," said healthcare worker Margaret O'Regan, who was browsing clothes from the privately-held Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Evans brands in a huge Tesco store in Woolwich, south east London.

The brands have 20,000 square feet of the store’s 120,000 sq ft, replacing space previously taken up by Tesco's toys, stationery and technology offer, some of which are now only available on its website.

In the four months since the brands went in, shopper numbers at the Woolwich store have risen.

A Tesco spokesman said the changes at Woolwich were illustrative of Tesco Chief Executive Dave Lewis' strategy to turn around the business, giving shoppers more choice so they start to see superstores as the most convenient way to shop again.

"We are always looking at new ways our stores can meet the needs of local customers. We're pleased with the feedback from customers in Woolwich who tell us they like the store's convenient range of fashion options," he said.

Thousands of small shops have disappeared from British towns in recent years, unable to compete with the lower costs and prices of online outfits and bluechip retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer (MKS.L: Quote) could join the exodus.   Continued...

A Tesco Extra store is seen in Woolwich, southeast London, Britain February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth