What will the high street of the future look like and will it transform itself again?

John Timpson knows a thing or two about the high street. The chairman of the UK shoe-repair chain that bears his family name was, after all, entrusted to lead a 2018 government review into what the future UK high street would look like.Though at one time he envisaged a future where the number of shops in British town centres would have halved, he could never have imagined how quickly that revolution would come.

The impact of the pandemic on our towns and cities has, he says, been seismic: “What we have seen is ten years of change on the high street all in one go, but it’s been all the negatives, without any positives,” he explains.

The negatives are obvious – store closures, job losses and empty streets. But Timpson believes there will be plenty of positives to come if local authorities show the imagination to turn their urban centres from shopping deserts into community hubs. “A large number of town centres, if they don’t do something about it, will have a real problem,” he says. “Town centres need to have a community hub, with shops alongside medical centres, entertainment venues, restaurants and cafes – all sorts of things that people will go to.”

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at customer data business Springboard, also believes the acceleration of the high street’s decline – which has made the case for regeneration inarguable – should be taken as a positive, though she warns it will take some time for the changes to fully play out. “Things were changing on the high street anyway,” she says, “and the clearing out of the old guard will bring in a new guard, with shops filled by residential units, service businesses and entertainment occupiers.” Margaret Taylor

Local, ethical food shops – Retail expert Mark Pilkington, the former chief executive of lingerie company Gossard, says if there’s one thing the online revolution has taught retailers it’s that customers want to feel a close connection to brands whose ethos they feel aligned with. This means a return to a more post-war type high street, peppered with independent stores full of locally sourced produce. Wehrle agrees. “We’ll see things such as artisan food shops coming back to the high street,” she says. “People want to know the provenance of their food and are more socially conscious about supporting local businesses.

Slimline big-brand stores – Switching focus to their online channels in the last year has shown traditional retailers they no longer need to have well-stocked, big-box stores. So, while the big-name retailers that have survived the pandemic are not going to disappear, they will, as John Lewis has already announced, start to occupy less space. Rather than filling that space with piles of stock to be checked out by overworked sales staff, they will focus on what Pilkington terms “hero products” that will be presented to customers by well-trained brand ambassadors tooled up with all the latest technology. And if you like what you see? You’ll go home and order it on the retailer’s website, of course.

Plug-and-play stores –  The flipside of traditional retailers smartening up their online act is that web-based shops are starting to see the benefit in bricks and mortar. For landlords losing out when big-name, high-occupancy tenants such as Debenhams go bust, this creates an opportunity. Though most online brands may only want a physical store to showcase particular goods for limited periods, Pilkington believes the sheer number of businesses that could be in the market for such a deal will be good news for landlords. Those that seize the opportunity of subdividing existing units into smaller spaces kitted out with technology retailers can plug their branding into will reap the benefits of this nascent trend

Residential block – It is no secret that a lack of people has killed many town centres across the UK; Timpson believes encouraging them to move back in is one of the best ways to bring high streets back to life. That could involve converting existing buildings into apartment blocks, though Timpson says that, in some towns and cities, it will mean knocking them down and starting again. While that would lead to significant disruption, it would allow for proper town planning to take place, meaning all the amenities a local community needs – such as medical centres, hairdressers and leisure facilities – can be factored in.

Empty units – The long-term vision might be for towns and cities with renewed individual identities, but the reality will take many years to achieve. In the meantime, most high streets will have to get by with empty shops – and lots of them. Part of the reason for that is that rents and rates remain too high for many local businesses to sign up to. Jason Hayward, a retail support expert at Retail Spark, says another reason is that faceless investors who bought up swathes of urban retail space in the 1990s are not ready to consolidate any losses. “So many investors got into the sector because there was massive growth, but we’ve been seeing values slide in recent years,” he says. “There are a lot of pension funds that don’t want to devalue their investments – it’s better for them to sit on empty units.” Unless and until that changes, expect there to be gaps.

We’d love to have your thoughts – richard@harrison.hn

Supermarkets and Cafes do work

Harrison opened the first Caffe Carluccio’s in Sainsbury’s, St Albans this week  creating a new beginning for F&B within Supermarkets.

This new format will offer customers eat-in as well as takeaway options.  The 900 square foot coffee shop has space for up to 45 customers to sit and enjoy the brand’s signature real Italian coffee, iced coffees, Cremosa blended drinks and granita fruit ices alongside all-day breakfast foods and light-bites, including freshly made ciabatta sandwiches, toasties, filled croissants and pastries.

A range of Carluccio’s retail products will also be available including biscuits such as biscotti and cantucci, ground coffee and gianduiotti chocolates.

One of the great mysteries in foodservice over the years has been just how uninspiring the cafes have been within the major supermarkets. Despite the fact they are supposedly experts in food they have always delivered a poor dining offer within their own stores.

Their long-standing argument seems to have been that everybody hates food shopping and so they have looked to do everything possible to get people in and out of the stores as quickly as possible. We’ve strongly disagreed with this and believe it was perpetuated purely for their own benefit (to push more people through their stores) and not for that of the customer. With this warped narrative, it would indeed have looked odd if they had introduced even a half decent foodservice offer inside their outlets.

Strange it was then that Tesco went against the perceived grain in 2012 when it bought Harris + Hoole, Giraffe and Euphorium Bakery. It introduced them into some of its larger stores but, sadly, the experiment was all over by 2016 when new chief executive Dave Lewis sought to address some of the failures of his predecessor Philip Clarke by offloading non-core elements. We’re not quite sure how these food businesses were deemed to be outside the core of a food retailer. Interestingly, what was regarded as core was a growing range of non-food products from electricals to clothing to homewares.

Not anymore. Fast forward to today and the major supermarkets now have so much space they don’t know what to do with it because a growing number of their customers now choose to shop online for food and particularly non-food items. The latter can now absolutely be deemed non-core within the group’s physical stores. Why buy a toaster in Tesco and have to lug it home when you can have it delivered?

The company now recognises you are more likely to want to buy toast in its stores – whether that be in the form of a panini or other warm specialist sandwiches. This is no doubt why Tesco has just announced its partnership with Pret A Manger – purveyor of some great sandwiches. The first shop-in-shop will open this month and another four will follow during the summer. Various formats will be on trial, including a fully seated replica of the regular high street Pret.

Tesco is certainly not alone in now looking to address the poor situation of eating within supermarkets. Sainsbury’s, this week, opened the first Caffé Carluccio’s, with 45 seats, which will be joined by a Carluccio’s Counter later this month.

With much of the focus of these new formats on the takeaway side of things, the major supermarkets are still not putting enough effort into boosting their dine-in propositions. The exception seems to be Morrison’s, which has just spent £16m on its 400-plus cafes where a new healthier menu has been introduced and more food is being brought directly across from its Market Street counters. In my local superstore, they are currently introducing a variety of new counters including a Waffles & Shakes House. It’s certainly not haute cuisine but the company sensibly understands its cafes are an important part of the local community.

The shopping centres long ago recognised the value of a decent F&B offer in attracting customers and boosting their dwell time. I can see it is not quite the same environment in a supermarket but with space aplenty in many large stores and the fact that not all UK consumers dislike buying food, it is surely time for the major grocers to be brave and give it a go. Partner with great brands and prove that Tesco sticking its neck out to buy Giraffe all those years ago was not a mistake but was simply just ahead of its time


Rebranding and Brand Evolution


The world moves rapidly and the past few months demonstrates this more starkly than ever.

Consumer needs and social distancing constraints are driving new customer journeys. As we all adjust to the ‘new’ normal, restaurants, bars, and hotels must reassess their brand and how it will need to evolve to meet future market needs, remain relevant and differentiated.

Businesses should make changes, however small, to remain relevant and compelling, for example, by updating how you communicate your values and beliefs, what you are saying and how your products and services will need to evolve.

In order to compete, restaurants, bars, and hotels need strong branding that has the stamina, flexibility, and creative flair to stand out, remain relevant, build loyalty and potentially take advantage of new opportunities to grow in the hospitality sector – we all know that this is going to become more challenging as this change accelerates.


Brand evolution 

Brand evolution is usually more about smaller changes through incremental innovations that reflect evolving market conditions, and changing customer needs – for example, updating your menu so it is in line with food and drink trends and issues such as social distancing, looking after the wellbeing of your teams and your customers.

We’ve provided our top tips on the dos and don’ts of this brand evolution:

1. Do build a strong foundation – You should always remain true to what your business stands for, and update your branding around these core values. However, company codes should not be buzzwords, but principles you follow and reminders about why your business was born, what it offers, and what makes it stand out. Starbucks, for example, is a global phenomenon yet remains anchored to creating a warm culture where everyone is welcome. Your core values should be constant but flexible within certain brand guardrails, so your business can grow and adapt to market conditions whilst staying true to its essence.

2. Do look at customer aspirations – When refreshing your business, look at how your consumers see the world and how can you best meet these visions, creating something just for them. For example, we know more people who are eating out are looking for personalised experiences and to socialise with friends and family. E qually, more people than ever are eating out for fuel – as a hospitality enterprise, your brand should reflect these aspirations, so you can continue attracting customers and remain relevant

3. Do consider all customer touchpoints – Branding should seep through all areas of a business that a consumer encounters. Re-examine the consumer’s whole journey – from the moment they open the door, walk to their table, and even visit the toilets, and ensure your branding carries through – from the design, the menu, customer service, and even recruitment and training.

4. Do mature with your customers – Consumers don’t always remain loyal to one brand and can be unpredictable. Growing with your current customer base can add to your business’ competitive edge and help it to endure. Think about the changing demand of millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1997. This demographic experienced a more sophisticated range of food service concepts, with emphasis on authenticity, quality, healthier choices, and greater food credibility, and will likely continue to demand these values as they grow into a family market. If your business doesn’t meet their changing needs, you’re in danger of appearing unattractive to the next generation of young families.

5. The impact of technology – For all hospitality businesses the interaction between the server and guest is part of the whole experience, and for these brands, technology could in fact alienate your customers if used in the wrong way.

6. Don’t forget about your employees – The key to any brand surviving is employing talented individuals, who can provide a fresh outlook and inject innovation. When reviewing your brand, you should also appeal to current and future employees, emphasising who you are, the direction the business is heading in and its future prospects.

To navigate changing consumer mindsets, your business’ branding needs to evolve with them, while remaining loyal to its core values, so it endures.

By evaluating your brand every year and making incremental changes every two years, it signals to customers and stakeholders that your business is moving forward as well as communicating both visually and verbally the right information to stand out from its competitors.

We specialise in creating and evolving brands that are underpinned by authenticity and a clear DNA, why not drop us a line or email us.





The Art of the Rebranding – A users guide

What is rebranding?

When most people think of ‘rebranding’ the first thoughts that pop into their heads are visual changes to a brand’s identity. And while it’s true that rebranding often involves tweaks to logos, typography and colour palettes, those elements only scratch the surface of a true rebranding process.

A rebrand should be about meaning, personality and feeling – not just aesthetics.

It should lay everything out on the table for consideration – including your brand’s identity, your purpose, and your vision, mission and values.


Why do companies rebrand themselves?

Why your company is rebranding should always be the starting point of the process.

There are many reasons why companies rebrand, including:

● Expansion into different markets with differing customer demographics
● Mergers and acquisitions
● Changing markets
● Outdated brand identity

In some cases, though, companies rebrand for the wrong reasons.

If you’re a marketing director and your CEO demands a brand refresh because they’re ‘sick of looking at the same logo day after day’, that on its own is not an adequate reason for rebranding and the alarm bells should be ringing.

Nor is ego or personal gain. Often, new managers or directors are keen to exert their authority and make their mark, so embark on ill-advised rebranding processes in a bid to do both, with no real business justification for doing so.

And rebranding should never be used as a way to cover up poor performance. If sales are falling off a cliff, it’s far more sensible to look at your product, value proposition and marketing strategy before undertaking a rebrand process that could wipe out the brand equity you have and leave you worse off than when you started.


Why rebranding is good?

There are a multitude of benefits – both short-term and long-term – that come with an effective rebranding process.

Firstly, and probably most importantly, rebranding can open new doors for your business and place you in front of a new audience.

Of course, once your business or product is in front of those people, a refreshed brand won’t, on its own, be enough to convert them into customers and fans.

But rebranding can act as a catalyst, stimulating your business to grow in changing markets.

Rebranding can also be a good way to:

● Help you stand out from your main competitors
● Stay current and on trend
● Help you market new products or an amended value proposition

But, essentially, any rebranding process is about boosting your bottom line – and if done well, the success of your rebranding will be measured in more profit.


How to rebrand and nail it and some amazing rebranding examples

Think Apple, IBM, Microsoft and McDonald’s – all enduring brands and all have stood the test of time.

And not because they stood still. They’ve changed with changing times, stayed fresh and relevant and have been brave enough to realise when their positioning, brand identity and ‘feel’ has run its course with their customers and the current market.

Nailing a rebrand is as much about knowing when it’s needed and having sound reasons for doing it as it is about the actual process itself.


Our Rebranding Users Check List 

Ask yourself:

1. Has your business had a major change in management?
2. Are you looking to expand or diversify the markets your business sits within?
3. Has your product or offer changed since you launched?
4. Has your customer profile changed since you launched?
5. Have your competitors increased in either numbers or market share?
6. Have there been technological advances since you launched that you haven’t explored?
7. Does your brand identity work across all media now with the impact of online?
8. Do you need to reach out to new audiences?
9. Have you received any bad press or negative feedback from customers?
10. Are your sales still increasing at a healthy rate?

If you answered YES to most of the first nine questions and NO to the 10th, then it could be time for you to consider a rebranding exercise to help drive growth to your business.

This doesn’t have to mean a total overhaul – it could be a brand audit and then some subtle changes to positioning, strategy, identity and the way you communicate with your customers.

At the end of the day, a successful rebrand is about adapting and innovating – but also knowing and understanding who you are at any given time.

For example, those skinny jeans you wore in your 20s might not be such a good idea when you hit your 40s – and we all need a bit of help to stay looking fresh, vibrant and in touch with modern life.

It’s the same for brands.

A host of big-name companies have completed successful rebranding processes in recent years.

And while they may have refreshed differing elements of their brand, their identity and their positioning, their reasons why are clear to see.


The Burger King rebrand and why it works

Companies with decades of brand equity behind them take the biggest risks when rebranding – none more so than Burger King, which has been etched in the minds of fast-food fans since the mid-1950s. That’s a lot of brand equity right there!

But Burger King’s reasons for its first major rebrand in more than 20 years were fully justified – the company wanted to move to a digital-first approach, while also calling on and celebrating its heritage.

The flat logo design is based on the brand’s 1960s identity and is unashamedly bold, with a retro colour palette that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1978 Ford Cortina!

In rebranding now, Burger King has capitalised on a pining for nostalgia and vintage, and although the brand’s refresh is very much led by design, it also tells a comforting story of the brand’s history and longevity.


The Brewdog rebrand and how it supported a planet over profit approach 

It’s fair to say that Scottish craft beer company Brewdog doesn’t have the same kind of history to call upon as Burger King – after all, the brand was only founded in 2007.

Like Burger King, Brewdog’s reasons for its 2020 rebrand were largely to create a digital-friendly aesthetic through pared back graphics and typography.

But its primary reason for rebranding was to support its drive towards sustainability and ensure that this new approach was paired with a more ‘grown up’ brand identity.

Gone are the fussy product backgrounds, upright typography and anti-establishment, ‘punk’-style tone of voice in favour of a cleaner look and feel that won’t distract from the importance of Brewdog’s new ‘sustainability’ messaging. The brand’s ‘Brewdog tomorrow’ campaign is behind the change, with plans in place to reuse old cans and reduce waste by turning imperfect brews into vodka.


The Harrison approach to rebranding strategy

We believe that personality, values and story underpin any successful rebrand. We work with hospitality clients who want to reposition and redefine their brands, reconnect with lapsed customers and build excitement in new ones.


Our rebranding work with Pizza Hut

If the true evaluation of a rebrand is on bottom line impact, then our work with Pizza Hut hit the mark.

An overhaul of the brand’s UK restaurants resulted in a 40% increase in revenue across the initial trial units.

The aim of the work was to bring both new customers to the table and reignite excitement in those who had drifted away from the brand towards its competitors. Our focus was on ‘Americanness’, with revised seating and bar arrangements, overall design and lighting to encourage night-time dining from a refreshed food and cocktail menu. The refresh helped differentiate Pizza Hut from its Italian-themed competitors and called upon its US heritage to tell the story of a brand that had lost a little momentum.


Find out more

Want to know more about how we fuse storytelling, brand identity and design as part of our rebranding process?

Get in touch and we’ll show you what we do best.

An international design perspective that has really made a difference for hospitality companies.

We’re incredibly proud to share with you a recent interview with Keith Anderson, COO of our US business in the Dallas Business Journal. (click on this link for the article).

 Back in 2013 Harrison moved across the pond to set-up our US office in Dallas. Over the past 8 years, Keith and his talented team have built a thriving architecture and design business which has delivered a real difference to many US hospitality clients through an international design perspective that creates differentiation for brands locally.  

 Harrison have recently collaborated with @Front Burner Society to create the new concept @Son of Butcher, re-energised @Velvet Taco and created Sidecar Social, which is owned by Dallas restaurateur @Brent Tipps.

Storytelling in Restaurant Design is One Pillar of your brand’s success

Sarah Jenkinson, our Design Director at our Dallas office has recently shared her insights on creating compelling stories for hospitality brands in a US publication Restaurant News.

There is nothing like a great experience. Our lives are built around them, and the better the story, the more involved people become. Restaurant brands have the same objective because their success is all about the customer journey narrative.

There are a multitude of factors and influences, whether it is the history, food fusion or cultural significance, that play into a restaurant brand’s story.

When a brand engages its guests, it helps guests start to fall in love with everything the restaurant brand does. Designing one-off restaurants or multi-chain brands to make them part of the fabric of peoples’ lives is no easy task.

What makes a restaurant unique, what gives it a competitive edge and how the brand wants to grow are all part of how we identify the solution. We need all of those subliminal qualities to be make sure our design is just right.

Fogo de Chão is known for its Brazilian heritage and warm hospitality. We were determined to help this brand show its Southern Brazilian roots in every step of the guest’s journey with new design elements.

We started by creating a timeless, sophisticated and welcoming environment within the restaurant using deep accent colours and rich upholstery textures

Fundamentally, the food has to go above and beyond tasty. Then, we come in to help maximize the guest journey, which starts not just at the door.

The customer journey is what everyone sees and touches to create a sense of place. Whether the details are big or small, we convey a narrative in everything the guest experiences, from moments like walking to your table and seeing the seats you sit on, smelling the aroma of the brand’s food and drink, hearing music being played and people talking to noticing how the napkins are folded on the table, the weight of the cutlery and how the food is served, everything matters.

Ethics and brands’ behaviours are now even more of a priority on the consumer’s mind. We have to reflect the brand accurately to create the perfect narrative that resonates with who the brand is and what it offers. This is part of what makes any brand stand out from the rest and brings people back for more.

We must understand the finer points that give the discovery and strategy phase of the brand depth.

While it may seem obvious, many new startups, incubator brands and even long-established brands omit this stage as they get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of operating their business.

For example, we have recently been working with FB Society on Buttercup Love Me Tenders, a quirky brand that serves chicken tenders in cones.

The concept takes an unconventional approach to classic comfort food that embraces global influences and encourages flavour exploration. The unique brand has a fun sense of humour and needed to be envisaged correctly to be successful. As we crafted the Buttercup concept from the ground up, we had to analyze how the brand experience would be for its guests to appropriately bring it to life.

Playing with food is encouraged, so our design had to be equally as fun and playful. The restaurant stall was designed to resemble a traditional shed and chicken coop and even the logo and font choices reflect that lively energy.

In addition, Fogo de Chão is known for its Brazilian heritage and warm hospitality. We were determined to help this brand show its Southern Brazilian roots in every step of the guest’s journey with new design elements.

We started by creating a timeless, sophisticated and welcoming environment within the restaurant using deep accent colours and rich upholstery textures.

From the moment guests arrive, they will enjoy an experience that allows them to discover something new with every bite. Founded in Southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo elevates the centuries-old cooking technique of churrasco – the art of roasting high-quality cuts of meat over an open flame – into a cultural dining experience of discovery.

Whether guests are celebrating an occasion with family or enjoying a date night in the Next Level Lounge, the restaurant’s design aesthetic tells the Fogo story through every touchpoint.

Guests want a brand with a story to tell. Told often through many unseen details, key features are planned out and unite to create the right experience.

As designers, we rely on the brand to help us translate its DNA into special features or magical moments and feelings that ensure the brand’s story is being told.

Ultimately, we’re in charge of putting the guest at the heart of the experience, and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure they fall with the brand and stay in love.

Because we all love a happy ending.