The news that Nick Clegg has called Mary Portas in to rescue the British High Street has stimulated much debate today.  Certainly it seems that something must be done.  18 months ago flash discounting provoked an instant sales spike for most retailers.

But in the last few days alone via email and SMS we have received 30% from Jaeger, 20% from White Stuff, 20% from Boden, 20% from Jack Wills, 20% Habitat and a paltry 10% from M& S …  The result, of course, is that if you’re asked to pay full price for something you simply won’t.

Looking forward, as retailers crawl out of recession, offers like these will have to be anniversaried in retail calendars which creates a spiral of discounting that is hard to escape from.

But if brands like these are being forced to discount at such a level what hope is there for High Street survival?  The answer partly lies in delighting customers ever further.  Recent pleasures that the Apparatus team have enjoyed include the cinema for kids and dads in the White Stuff store in Nottingham; a spontaneous glass of fizz to aid decision making in the fitting rooms at Hobbs and fantastic aftersales service at Heals who replaced a chandelier 6 years after purchase without a quibble.  These brands succeeded in provoking a fuzzy warm glow (of course fizz always helps with that) which means we’ll return.  White Stuff in particular is onto a winner given that their clothes are most likely aimed at mums. By sacrificing precious retail square footage they have captured their audience with one swipe and are now top of any city centre destination list for their target market.

It is this kind of shopping theatre that cannot be matched by websites, however many apps they develop.  If retailers turn a store visit into a pleasure and have every branch managed by a good team of people who make customers feel good they will increase transaction values and loyalty no end.

We’d be interested to hear of others who have had a particularly good (or bad) retail experience recently.  Let us know and we’ll send them through to Mary.