Bakehouse Visit REVO 2019

Last week our Managing Director, Kate & Account Manager, Charlie paid a visit to REVO Conference 2019. Each year REVO brings together the key decision makers and influencers from across the retail sector. Against ongoing uncertainty, retailers are seeking new vibrant and innovative ways in which to engage both customers and communities. We caught up with Charlie as she explains her findings from REVO 2019 and the unique opportunities that Bakehouse can offer retailers.

“It goes without saying that the whole retail sector is confronting uncertain times. To better understand the issues and delve into the nuances of the very real challenges facing retail in today’s climate, Bakehouse headed off to Liverpool to catch up with many of our clients.

#CRTLKTHINKERS, “Ever Changing, Never Changing” a talk by John Badman

Perhaps more than anything, it was clear that REVO provided a ‘shopfront’ for players in an industry keen to demonstrate that they were ready to face the challenges ahead. Stands were occupied by the many and varied industries that, together, comprise what we refer to collectively as the retail property industry. From data analytics and property management to the build to rent market, one thing was clear: this is a sector that is being forced to react, rethink, and review what it means to be a successful retail business. And the message from the talks, debates and discussions was crystal clear: only those who are ready to tear up the rule book and genuinely rethink their place in the ecosystem would survive.

Through all of the presentations in the cinema, and in the chatter heard at the exhibitors’ stands, the mantra was the same. If it doesn’t engage the shopper on a human level, if it isn’t an experience that grips and transforms and speaks to the consumer, then it’s not going to sell. Retail spaces can no longer simply be the bricks and mortar from which to push product to an undiscerning consumer. The consumer got smart and those spaces now have to provide rich, engaging experiences that speak to some fundamental human needs for community and creativity as well as the need for new trainers, homewares or food. It’s about the “software” not the hardware, we are told. It’s not just about location, location, location anymore. The retail sector needs to create a sense of location and drive change. It needs to become a stage upon which to create and define the identity of place. “Cities are more important than countries” we were told by Mark Davy (Futurecity). Our town centres, retail parks and malls need to offer experiences to help define communities and connect people. They need to become platforms that are trusted and familiar to communities, to open up “opportunities for extraordinary things to happen”.

Back in the cinema we were treated to an insight into some truly inspirational large-scale public and commercial immersive art, funded not by the public Arts Council purse, but with “money that’s already in the system”. This is money that has been skilfully extracted and cleverly redistributed from major capital investment initiatives at early development stage so that place-making, conversation-starting and life-enhancing works of art become the identity of the place. It’s evident how art and the arts, when sewn into the fabric of a development or shopping centre or high street, have a transformative power over people’s perception of place, enriching human interactions, enabling community cohesion and facilitating a healthy local economy. We heard much at REVO about the “halo effect” of a bricks and mortar presence for a brand or outlet – here too is the evidence of economic uplift encircling art and activation.

Lots of thought-provoking points from architecture and design practice, Callison RTKL

Of course, all of this comes as no surprise to Bakehouse. We live and breathe this in every event concept we develop and every  hand-crafted event we deliver. We know that a truly engaging personal interaction such as we can offer through our events, creates these essential connections – experience, experience, experience. We know that the enlivenment promotes well-being and enhances a shopper’s perception of place. We know from data relating to increase in footfall, dwell-time and the numbers of repeat visitors, that our events ‘work’ but it was still music to our ears to hear the whole conference singing from the same song-sheet. We are constantly looking to improve ways to capture those vital numbers from our events, to support our clients in their objectives and to evidence ROI.

But we also know that there’s something intangible and magical about what happens when our incredible performers, set and costumes inadvertently help an 80 year old with Alzheimer’s to recover “lost” memories, or the deep exhalation of relief from a weary trying-to-shop mum when her boisterous twins spot our event and immediately forget how fed up they are; Allowing mum fifteen precious minutes of respite before gathering them back up and heading off together, happily, to finish the shopping. It’s these moments that truly ignite our passion for what we do.”

Charlie Dorman, Account Manager, transcribed by Emily Amesbury