Business

Why shopping needs to be more fun

Philip Bier, Danish entrepreneur and former Tiger partner Image copyright Bier Brothers
Image caption Philip Bier brought Tiger to the UK

Given the woes afflicting many UK retailers, you'd have to be a brave entrepreneur to launch a new chain in 2018.

However, that's exactly what Philip Bier plans to do.

He's already done it once, bringing the Danish retailer Tiger to the UK. It proved such a hit the chain now has 90 stores in Britain.

Mr Bier hopes to repeat that success with ID Kids, a French children's chain - a mix of Mothercare and Toys R Us.

The first store, in Wandsworth, south London, will not be your average shop: it will have a soft-play area, a workshop area with free art classes - and scooters and go-karts for children to zoom around on.

"I think that there's plenty of space for retailers who provide products that are a fantastic value for money, but where the experience in the store is really fun and you want to go to it," he tells the BBC.

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Despite the demise of Toys R Us and the problems facing Mothercare, Mr Bier argues that the high street is not dead but that the retail sector is evolving.

The chains that have disappeared - starting with Woolworths a decade ago - all stopped being "relevant" to their customers, he says.

The rise of online shopping means stores must have an "emotional connection" with their customers, Mr Bier said.

"You have incredible competition from the web and overall you need to deliver an experience that is engaging. And if you don't have that then you are dead."

That means it is no longer "enough to open the doors and expect customers to come in", he adds. "It might have been like that in the 1980s and 1990s, but it's not enough nowadays".

"At retail conferences, nobody talks about customers," Mr Bier says. "Nobody talks about, are we relevant? The core of the business is who do you talk to."

He also predicts a shift away from department stores: "I think that retail will go more and more towards single brand shops."

Image copyright Flying Tiger Copenhagen
Image caption The original concept of the retailer was to offer good quality products at £1 or less

Mr Bier opened the first UK branch of homeware and gadget retailer Tiger with his wife Emma in Basingstoke in 2005 and the chain now has 90 stores.

They had a half-share in the venture with its Danish parent company, Zebra Group.

Last year Mr Bier sold his stake in Tiger, now known as Flying Tiger Copenhagen, to Zebra and has bought the UK franchise for ID Kids, which has 1,200 stores worldwide.

Mr Bier said that Tiger once received customer feedback from a child, who said if he had £1 in his pocket he would spend it there.

But even when the boy did not have any money to spend, he would still go into the store all the time just to look at the products and experience them, because the shop was such a fun place to be.

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