Thomson has opened its first concept store in Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent with interactive screens and video walls replacing traditional brochure racks and window displays.
The 2,187 foot store opens tomorrow (Thursday) and will replace its two existing stores in the shopping centre, which are closing. It is being marketed to consumers as the 'holiday design store'.
A large video wall replaces the conventional front window display, digital bill boards are set each side of the entrance, and inside, the shop boasts an interactive wall map and table to search resorts, an "advice" bar, "pool" seating area with free Wi-Fi as well as desk booths.
High definition screens around the store feature changing images, including live weather information, destination videos, feeds from social media sites Twitter and Facebook and reviews.
Director of retail Kathryn Ward said the 'next-generation' shop had deliberately avoided technology gimmicks but instead hoped to combine interactive technology with a modern look and feel and good customer service, which lets the customers "lead the sales experience".
"We were clear from the start we wanted to stay away from gimmicks. It's a great looking shop but it's not just about delivering a fancy-looking store. It's about integrating technology into the experience and delivering service. I can't stress that enough," said Ward. "Many retailers will deliver one or two of these but we are confident we are delivering all three."
A brochure display is featured behind the advice bar but there is no traditional brochure rack. Customers can ask for brochures, which will be stocked behind the bar, or take postcards with website details of Thomson's products. "We are testing how ready or not customers are not to have brochures," added Ward.
The new store is designed to allow customers to control the experience, from browsing destinations on the interactive map, using the laptops in the pool area, asking staff questions at the advice bar or spending time with an adviser in one of the desk booths. Customers can search online or book online in the store or ask advice and book with a consultant.
The store, which has taken seven months to develop, has 25 staff. The 30 staff employed at the two previous Bluewater stores have been redeployed in the business, with some moving across to work at the new concept store.
The shop is on Thames Walk on the Upper Mall in the shopping centre.
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