London on Display: Exploring the Latest Retail Trends

Westfield Londra

Today’s editorial is dedicated to London, the only city in Europe that can still amaze you from a retail point of view, apart from Berlin, which we would like to become our next stop (it seems to be in great turmoil with investments and new brands) .

Before leaving, we inquired with some insiders to find out if there was a city in Europe that could be more indicative than the others when it comes to new retail trends. Almost no one went out of their way, stating that at this moment there is no particular news. In reality, perhaps because we hadn’t traveled to Europe for a while due to the pandemic, we encountered several new things. While writing this article, the first words that came to mind were those of a famous song by Lucio Dalla: “Dear friend, I write to you and thus distract myself a bit. Ever since you left there’s been big news…”.

Latest Retail Trends in London

London, the beating heart of retail in Europe

And actually, despite having started without great expectations, four days were enough, very intense ones, to understand that even today the City always offers some surprises. Upon returning we can summarize what we saw in 3 words:

  • An exceptional offer
  • Obsessive visual merchandising
  • Inclusivity

The expansion of the city has expanded so much (9,000,000 inhabitants) that we inevitably have to think by priority, trying to combine the more touristy and classic shopping streets with the slightly more niche and secondary ones. We then moved from the timeless Regent Street, Liberty, Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street, Covent Garden and others in the so-called centre, to the latest developments such as Battersea Power Station up to Westfield. It is also inevitable to visit Camden Town and Portobello Road, but more for folklore than for reasons related to retail.

The retail offer

Let’s start from the first point: the offer. It’s impossible not to find a product that matches your needs. From used products to those on sale to the latest news, it is possible to access an unparalleled offer. All this translates into very fierce competition which is mainly based on two aspects: the availability of the product (therefore the availability of sizes and colours) and, obviously, the location. In fact, it is not uncommon to find shops in the same segment, even large ones, just a few dozen meters from each other. At this point it is quite legitimate to ask: on the basis of what criteria does the final consumer, whether local or tourist, choose to purchase a product, considering that the same product or any variations are available in large quantities in many different shops? It is difficult to give an answer on the current behavior of the customer, as there are so many stimuli: from social media to street advertising, from the media to shop windows and visual merchandising. It is probably a mix of all this that influences the customer.

high level of visual merchandising

High level of visual merchandising

The second relevant point is the very high level of visual merchandising, the main lever in which all the most important chains, but also the second-tier ones, invest to make their product attractive and as visible as possible.

Let’s put aside, for a moment, the scenographic aspect of the shop windows, which obviously depends on the availability of a budget or adequate location, and let’s focus instead on how those who have less economic means are still able to obtain excellent results. The obsessive attention to the basic concepts of visual merchandising such as the folding of the products, the chromatic order and the cleanliness of the setup is striking. The concept of the right quantity and good visibility reigns, that is, a fair compromise between quantity and exhibition quality. Even in those shops where the assortments are certainly more mass-produced than in other boutiques, the intent is always to make what is displayed easily accessible and above all readable.

Space is money, so it is not uncommon to find shops that display the product even beyond 2.20 metres, in order to offer an even wider range to the consumer. The display principles are always the same, but what is surprising compared to our last visit a few years ago is that all the companies, from the most structured to the most recent, have now reached a very high average level of visual merchandising.

high level of visual merchandising


Furthermore, what surprised us is the inclusiveness, but not that declared in the press or on social media. Let’s talk about facts and substance. Cases are not uncommon in which the main shop window or the most visible spaces within the stores are dedicated to people with physical characteristics a little distant from what is considered “the norm”.

From overweight people to people with disabilities, big brands, but also smaller chains, pay great attention to the aspect of social inclusiveness. The fundamental concept is that the end customer, upon entering the store, must absolutely not feel the inconvenience of having to ask the staff if they have the right size for his body or the products suited to his needs, as in the case of people with disabilities who practice sport activity. The goal is to make all consumers feel equally included.

  • Inclusività nel visual merchandising

To conclude, some asked us: “… How did you find the customer service? “.

On this aspect we must be honest, due to the high customer traffic and probably also due to a new approach in providing the service, in most cases, beyond the simple greeting, we have not found the will to conduct a phase of investigation to build a relationship with the customer. Rather, the strategy of letting the customer enter freely, welcoming him with a smile and a greeting, but then letting him explore the store in total autonomy seems to be widespread. However, upon meeting the customer’s gaze and request, we often found that the staff had a good understanding of the product they were selling. Having said this, we cannot make a definitive judgment or consider it as a trend applicable to other markets, since large metropolises are obviously a case apart compared to many other smaller cities or even more so compared to our cities in Italy.

The only recommendation we can give is to visit the City soon, which confirms itself to be the beating heart of retail in Europe.

by Paolo Zanardi and Roberto Cucco  XT Retail

by AN shopfittingmagazine no.180 ©