A few weeks ago, I went to the launch of what has been dubbed a “One-stop Experiential Retail Destination”. It’s called Situ Live, located in Westfield Shepherds Bush, and it hopes to transform the relationship between physical stores and online shopping.
Such an idea would generally make you roll the eyes (not on my part, of course) of those who see physical stores as a lost cause. The pandemic saw a resurgence of interest in online shopping simply because it was the only way we could shop. This accelerated the paradigm shift that had been on the cards for some time.
And in the process, physical spaces were left out. Living not too far from Croydon, seeing what the local mall has become – empty, with boarded up storefronts and ‘cashino’ game stores – is a grim disappointment, an empty shell of what once was. The Westfield complex which had been in development for almost a decade has now been all but canceled.
But physical stores have a place in the shopping experience, or at least they should. These are commonplaces, a way to cut the noise and have a product showcased in front of you, and that’s basically what Situ Live does, but it has more fun with the concept.
Describing myself as a ‘home of discovery’ which I admit made me think of the adventure sites I went to when I was young, like Tigers’ Eye; it houses a diverse range of products, both affordable and luxurious.
Teaming up with 75 brands, Situ Live delivers the tactile experience of seeing and touching what’s in front of you, and with that comes a certain dose of candor and perhaps more “confidence” in the process. With the internet, there isn’t always the same level of trust, with an online listing of a PS5 sometimes sold for nothing more than a quirky picture of the console.
And you have staff (a very enthusiastic bunch), who don’t try to confuse you with incomprehensible jargon, but give you a warm hug by telling stories that revolve around the products. Want to try this bed that goes up and down? You can. Do you want to use this exercise bike? Sure, but maybe not with those skinny jeans. And if you’re interested in the item, scan the barcode next to it and you’ll be taken to the manufacturer’s page, where you buy direct from them.
Sure, you’re unlikely to lose the price for that blue Maserati sitting next to the window if you’re just ‘looking’, but Situ Live is an interesting experience. It merges the impulsive aspect of window viewing with the experiential and lifestyle approach that is possibly the best of both worlds.
But it is an experience, and not something concrete like the physical space in which it is located. Will it work? Is he ahead of his time? Or is it the right idea at the right time? We will have to find out and see. If Situ Live is going to make a difference, it must show signs of longevity. There have been many attempts to change the experience of the brick and mortar that has fallen in their face.
One cannot help but applaud the ambition as a glimpse of what the main street and shopping malls could become. If the past 18 months have provided a lot of evidence, then a few missteps could see Situ being relegated to the dustbin like so many others.