My childhood was spent on the shop floor of my mother’s stores in the largest covered shopping centre in Europe, the Metrocentre. I remember the shop being full of life, bustling with people and coachloads of visitors every weekend. I remember helping customers and playing out the back as well as the queues out the front door, and I can picture the vibrancy of the shopping centre. In the last twenty years, however, the shopping centre has been in slow decline, and it was in 1999 that my mum first started her e-commerce store. She’s now 100% online, and the once-bustling Metrocentre is under jeopardy as the new owners Intu have gone into administration.
The story of the Metrocentre and the decline of retail is one that’s repeated across the globe. It was true before the pandemic, and it is even worse after the impact of COVID-19. On top of Intu, retailers such as Ted Baker, Burberry and John Lewis are setting out a series of closures and job losses.
In-store retail especially has suffered for many reasons, a reduction in spending power from financial crises, a growth in e-commerce and now shops being physically locked up by a global pandemic. I also think there is another story which is a reductive shopping experience which has driven fewer people to go out shopping for a disconnected, overwhelming, and sterile shopping experience. Retail needs a real shake-up, and that’s precisely what SCROBLE aims to do for fashion retail.
Bringing together online and offline shopping
Anna Salewski, the founder of SCROBLE, knew something had to change in retail. She has a vision to simplify and empower the shopping experience by connecting the online and offline and harnessing new data. The SCROBLE app lets customers peruse clothing items from their phone and guide them to local stores that are stocking them. When in-store, you can scan items you find, with a QR code, and add them to your digital wardrobe. With the digital asset on their phone, you can see how it fits, how to wear it and combine it with other items to make new looks.
This app aims to simplify the shopping experience by helping you curate items you need wherever you are while bringing people back in-store with local information. The app aims to democratise information by the ease at which you can scan, see and save the information about the item, including a digital version of the product. The aim is not to sell the items directly but help you find where to buy it both in-store and online. What’s more, it helps brands and retailers interact directly with their customers and potential customers in more powerful ways.
The power of data in retail
I was intrigued by SCROBLE but only really started to understand the real power of the service when Anna told me about the potential of the data. For the brands and local stores who sign up, this has the potential to unlock in-store data which is entirely lacking.
Currently, the data available for in-store fashion retail is extremely scarce in comparison to online data and leaves many brands making half-blind decisions about design and production. This is especially true for smaller brands who can’t afford to buy access to big data and are often in a dark room. By unlocking this data, brands can make more strategic decisions and (the part that I like) can make more environmentally sustainable decisions.
Launching with retail brands
SCROBLE is launching its first features with brands in Luxembourg who have full information on the products and can add all their distribution channels. They aim to go global and support brands and retailers. Backed by Microsoft Startup partnership, the EY Innovation programs and now Chamber of Commerce of Luxembourg, she certainly has the right people behind her to make it a success.
Stephanie Santos, owner of the brand Stephanie Santos, one of the first users, is very excited to join SCROBLE who says that “A new network of connectivity will be built between brands, retailers, customers and product” making shopping easier and more transparent. Melanie Jane, owner of the brand Laney Jane has said that “SCROBLE has provided an opportunity for us to reach our demographic in new ways; in a simple, streamlined approach.” She says the network of brick and mortar shops and online independent businesses can now work together to offer a more fluid experience bringing value to the shoppers both online and offline. What’s more, she says it’s brought new powerful backstage relationships. Kimberly Doerfel, Creative Director & Founder of Zoé Muse, is confident that the cooperation with SCROBLE will allow them to get to know their customers better.
The changing face of shopping: convenience v. conscience
Retail, and fashion retail especially, is at a crossroads. To survive, retailers need to bring together convenience with experience and ensure they’re more sustainable. The retail value chain has to change as consumerism in its current form is not good for us as a society and not good for our planet.
At the same time, we need to support our economies and support the retailers and brands who bring value. We need to support our high streets not just for the shops but to help bring our communities together. All the while, we need to avoid overproduction and help consumers make more informed decisions. Although this may not be a panacea to our retail issues, SCROBLE certainly offers exciting prospects to modernise and shift fashion retail, something which is desperately needed.