Location: Lindir Shopping Center, Kopavogur, Iceland
The fact that markets like consumer electronics are shifting online is beyond all reasonable doubt, with many electronics chains around Europe facing up to the fact that they will need fewer, smaller stores as part of a multi-channel offer. That said, many retailers find themselves wedded to a store estate that includes some genuine monsters in terms of store size. The viability of these megastores in now subject to a degree of debate. Kesa CEO Thierry Falque-Pierrotin remarked last year that “stores need to deliver advice to justify themselves, and it’s difficult to have assisted sales in a big box format – you need too many sales people to cover the floor space. It’s not the most efficient format in a web-driven market.” An observation that former Kesa chain Comet (sold for £2) and US retailer Best Buy (humiliating defeat in the UK) would probably attest to.
That said, a number of retailers – chiefly Dixons Retail and Media Markt – continue to demonstrate some faith in the big box model. The former has opted for the approach of transforming its big boxes into service- and experience-led outlets, while Media Markt continues to plough a somewhat worrying furrow of leading on price, famously proclaiming recently that it would be ‘cheaper than the Internet’.
One of the best takes on the big box electronics model I’ve seen recently was in the unlikely location of Kopavogur in Iceland. Located on a retail park that also housed a Krónan supermarket (utter genius and the subject of Store of the Week very soon) and an Intersport unit, this branch of Elko is the largest electric appliance store in Iceland, covering around 3,000 square metres. Elko is owned by local conglomerate Norvik but operated under a JV with Dixons’ Scandinavian operation Elkjøp.
As soon as I entered the store, I was struck by the fact that, despite the sheer scale of the place, navigation was actually very easy thanks to huge wall graphics and signs hanging from the ceiling that enabled me to quickly identify where certain categories were located. Well, they would have if I understood Icelandic. Given that my only previous exposure to the language is a couple of Sugarcubes records, I sadly don’t fall into the ‘fluent’ category.
Throughout the store, there were plenty of opportunities granted to branded manufacturers to achieve a focal point for their products. Suppliers such as Mattel, Nokia, Samsung and Nestlé all took advantage of this, with stylish and interactive branded displays that caught the eye and invited further investigation.
Interactivity is key in the consumer electronics sector. Elko clearly knows this and has pulled out all the stops to deliver one of the most interactive displays I’ve encountered. Whether it was the chance to play around with a food mixer, try out vacuum cleaners, sit on a sofa in front of Samsung Smart TV, use a laptop or assess the ergonomics of some hair straighteners, Elko enabled all of these vital interactions with the products. Unlike some other retailers that insist in keeping gear in boxes, behind glass or virtually bolted to the shelf, Elko has used state-of-the-art security to maximise shopper experience while minimising shrink. Good work.
Other highlights included what must be the greatest TV wall I’ve seen in my career; an awesome home theatre room that enabled shoppers to experience the joys of some seriously expensive bits of kit; a fantastic coffee machine department; and some of the best customer service I’ve received in a while. Courteous, patient and helpful, two staff members were full of useful advice and did very well not to laugh at my ineptitude with their currency. A pleasure to deal with.
Less compelling, perhaps, was a tokenistic offer of toys, and I’m not convinced that the huge (but impressive) music & DVD department would be the most heavily shopped in the store. Private label was notable by its absence (unless I was missing something), so I’ve decided to replace the usual PL score with an interactivity score – which seems fair as this is not a retail sector/format that usually relies on PL as a key part of its proposition. I’ll use this metric in the future for most non-food stores I visit, as interactivity will be a key factor behind the success or otherwise of many non-food retailers.
The only real negative points I picked up on during my time in the store were a random clearance section that looked like something you’d expect to see in a church hall bring & buy sale and a worrying interpretation of what ‘impulse confectionery’ means (according to Elko, it means 10-packs of Snickers and Twix).
These critical observations should be kept in context. Elko really understands what it takes to succeed in the current climate: authority, breadth & depth of range, elegant store design, superb interactivity and tremendous service. It delivers all of these in abundance. I look forward to visiting again one day.
Store design: 7
Customer service: 9
Total score: 41/50