Re-Tales: the top stories from Retail Week 2018

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Retail Week 2018 didn’t just provide a welcome escape from whichever incarnation of the ‘Beast from the East’ was hitting home (Leeds was being besieged by snow again while I was spending two sunny days by the Thames), it was a fascinating insight into the thoughts, ideas, and strategies of some of Britain’s biggest retailers at what is an interesting, if not somewhat troubling, time for British retail.

The British high street seems to find itself in a watershed moment; with big name casualties such as Toys R Us and Maplin, retailers are trying to work out how to incorporate the rise of online into the traditional bricks and mortar model – or whether to even incorporate it at all.

What most people agree is that the stores we walk into today will most likely be very different in the near future – if it still exists at all, it will be with a heightened customer experience, more interactive touch points, incorporating the online offering, and providing much more than just the single purchase transaction relationship.

So what, exactly, does this mean, and what will it look like? Here are the three main trends and discussion points from Retail Week 2018, and how they’ll shape retail;

1) The bricks and mortar model isn’t dead

The current retail landscape was succinctly summed up by John Rogers, the CEO of Argos, when he said; “It’s never been easier to buy, so why are stores struggling?”

I was surprised to learn that, after Amazon and eBay, Argos are the UK’s third most visited retail website. In addition, they were the first UK site to hit £1bn of mobile sales and also £1bn in app sales. 48% of sales were purely digital in 2016, and this is expected to grow to 59% in 2018. And yet, despite all this online activity, Rogers hailed Argos’ store infrastructure as paramount to their success.

Argos are using their physical store network to provide ultra-convenient options for customers. As well as the traditional click and collect, their stock efficient store network and incorporation with Sainsburys means they remain close to their customers, and can offer a 4hr fast-track delivery service to 90% of UK households. Rogers was keen to point out that they ensured that their stores were close to their customers.

So for Argos, their physical stores are the backbone of their success. While their stock efficient model can’t be directly replicated by other retailers, the fact that 72% of their online orders are still collected in store means that even though the purchase may start online, customers still need that convenient, physical touchpoint.

2) Your brand is everything

So, if customers are still needing the physical store, how can retailers enhance the experience for when these customers enter, and keep them coming back?

The most interesting answer to this was offered by Shamil Thakrar, co-founder of Dishoom, who offer customers a Bombay Café-style experience across one Edinburgh and five London sites. This growth has been relatively slow compared to most others, at a rate of almost one a year, but this has been deliberate.

Thakrar has refused to simplify or scale the service, and instead let each individual site have its own identity, look, feel, and story. For each new site Thakrar wrote a story about the characters that founded each one. For their Kings Cross restaurant, for example, he imagined an old Iranian in Bombay being late for a train, and spending more time than he had originally anticipated waiting around in the old train station, and then being inspired by its architecture to open a restaurant styled like it.

It’s this level of detail that has set Dishoom apart from anything else, and that offers customers a unique dining experience. Those photos on the wall aren’t just meaningless decoration; each is tied to the restaurant’s story, which is all fully explained in the restaurant’s 50-page design guide. This guide is personified by the members of staff with in each restaurant, who maintain the immersion through passion and knowledge.

The Dishoom model is proving that, if a retail space is well thought out, well designed, and offers customers a new, unique, authentic, and truly immersive experience that they can’t get anywhere else, then people will come, with 40,000 customers served every week. Dishoom’s success can literally be seen by their long lines, with customers prepared to join long queues for their dining experience.

3) The individual store will be more important than ever

With a strong brand established across the estate, there will then likely be an increase in trust given to individual stores to express and interpret these brand values to their local community and customer demographics.

Marc Dench, CFO of premium lifestyle brand Joules, spoke of a store manager led approach to their stores. Understanding the challenges stores were facing following reduced footfall and higher operating costs, the brand realised the retail environment needed to change to draw customers in.

Above all it needed to be an enticing shopping experience. Dench was keen to play down the ‘experiential’ buzz that he believes only works for some brands, and instead stated a focus on meaningful experiences that add real value, delivered through;

Individual Store

Location – being as close to the customers as possible (see point 1)

Reason – giving the customers a real reason to walk in, whether to pick up a product or through enticing POS/displays

Sales Experience – it needs to be better than online

Interaction – use each and every interaction as the starting point of a lasting relationship

While Dishoom’s restaurants are vastly different from each other, they are still all linked by strong brand purpose and values, and this is key to Joules’ success according to Dench. The brand shouldn’t be diluted, and be consistent across the board, but individual stores given licence to express these and incorporate them into every staff interaction.

Read recent news headlines and you’d be forgiven for thinking the British high street has seen better days, but for those within the industry, it’s an exciting time of re-thinking existing models and changing the offering. The real winners here are the customers, who are going to see their high street shopping experiences change for the better.

Brands are examining how to make better use of their physical assets and making the right first impression is now more important than ever. At KVH Studios we have been designing bespoke store services for decades, using sight and sound to provide customers with positive and lasting brand experiences. Drop us a line today to see how we can ensure your brand is heard in this changing retail landscape.

Joe Muddiman – Account Manager

Are you happy with the service levels you’re receiving from your current in-store audio provider?

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There’s nothing worse than a supplier that doesn’t get back to you and you have to chase… a supplier who can’t talk or meet with you when you need to… a supplier that doesn’t listen and so doesn’t meet your requirements leaving you to do the majority of the work.

At KVH Studios our number one priority is customer service. That’s why many of our clients, such as ASDA, House of Fraser and Topps Tiles, have been receiving audio services from us for over 10 years.

Here are our top 6 aims to ensure we’re always providing the best service at all times to our clients…

1. We’re accessible

Whether it be in person, on the phone, email or even social media, we’re always accessible to our clients to help them with what they require when they need it and to stay connected to their brand

2. We’re responsive

It’s very important to us that we acknowledge our clients quickly and provide a solution in a timely manner

3. We’re listeners

Understanding our clients’ requirements clearly can only be done by taking the time to listen carefully

4. We’re focused

Providing our clients with the information they need at the time they need it

5. We’re honest

There’s no point in us telling our clients something that isn’t achievable or not being truthful when something hasn’t gone to plan. Honesty is the best policy in our eyes.

6. We’re passionate

We believe in the services we create for our clients and ensure each one is unique and works hard to achieve results for their individual brand.

Of course, anyone can say they do these things and it’s difficult to showcase these qualities without working with us, but we do believe our high client retention and testimonials speak for themselves.

We specialise in providing music and content services across the globe to some of the world’s leading brands. We have a specialist team of audio producers and account managers who are dedicated to providing high quality audio services with attention to detail from the content to the service to the delivery.

We’d love to have a chat to find out about your stores and how we can help you as an individual client as everyone is different, that’s why we do things bespoke. Just give us a call on 0113 233 7800 or email

Let us take the workload of in-store audio away from you.

After all, that’s what you pay your supplier for isn’t it?

Songs that you should NOT play in-store…

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Sometimes it’s obvious why you probably shouldn’t play a song to your in-store customers; if it’s full of profanity, likely to offend large segments of your audience, or it just doesn’t suit the atmosphere of your stores/your brand image.

However, some songs (even some extremely popular ones) are surprisingly inappropriate when you listen to the lyrics, sometimes leaving the artists themselves surprised that their own songs are so mainstream!

Here are just a few examples of songs which we’ve heard being played in stores… And we’d advise you to think very carefully about these, before playing them to your customers!

All My Life – Foo Fighters

A song written about a specific sex act, which was catchy enough to make it onto most people’s “Favourite Foo Fighters tracks” list (you all have them too, right?) – Dave Grohl is on record as saying the song is “dirty” but it’s still a superb tune!

Pumped up Kicks – Foster The People

As songs about school shootings go, it’s definitely the catchiest one out there … But it’s also fairly explicit; “You better run, better run, outrun my gun…”

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

A really chilled-out song, relaxing and mellow, but with extremely sexualised lyrics, not to mention the overtly racial language.

Walk This Way – Aerosmith

It’s another fantastic song, but it’s also a completely unsubtle song about a man’s sexual memories of his time in school…

I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats

Another extremely popular song, widely played and loved by many… which is actually about a school shooting.

Last Friday Night – Katy Perry

This one is actually a surprise… It’s a song about getting black-out drunk, having a threesome, finding embarrassing pictures online, and planning to do it all again the next weekend… And it still gets played in the most inappropriate places. We actually heard this one on in a toy store!

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke

Another song with explicitly sexualised lyrics… And the uncensored version of the official video is definitely NSFW.

Ultimately, music is totally subjective – songs will have infinite meanings to different people, and can be interpreted in dozens of different ways. And there are even some brands which can get away with being irreverent, or even straight-up offensive, and who will enjoy being edgy with their music…

But there are some tracks which are almost guaranteed to get you into trouble at some point!

If you’d like the KVH Studios team to take a look at your in-store music selection, and head-off any potentially embarrassing moments with upset/offended customers making complaints on social media, get in touch today.

How Customer Experience can be Improved with Music

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How can music earn you the loyalty of a customer, make them feel connected with your brand, and like they belong in your stores?

Retailers have known that in-store music affects shopper behaviour since the 1960s, when some of the first studies into “shopping atmospheres” and the impact of sensory cues on customers were published. But our understanding of the real impact of instore music continues to evolve to this day.

Shoppers can be effected (positively or negatively) by the tempo, volume, genre and tone of the music played in stores; setting the right mood with customers, encouraging them to linger for longer in store etc.

But retailers are increasingly finding that their music selections are perceived as a strong statement of branding, rather than just something pleasant playing in the background.

Survey data shows that millennial audiences are less likely to perceive music played in a commercial setting as artist “sell outs” and they’re more likely to see music as a deliberate identity choice made by a brand (or by that brand’s customers).

Giving Brands a Voice

Our KVH Studios musical experts have designed, built and developed the musical identity and perfect sound for hundreds of brands over the years. So, who better to ask about how to give a brand the right sound!

Matt Moore – Music Profiler

How do you know what a brand should sound like?

There are quite a lot of factors that we take into consideration when we put together a music policy for a client for me the key ones are:

Core Values – What does the clients brand stand for? Are they built on rich heritage? Or are they spearheading a cutting edge new proposition in their marketplace? This greatly impacts on how we would approach the musical identity.

Target Customers – Who do they primarily want to talk to? How are they currently talking to them? When are they most likely to be in store? We would always strive for the core customers without alienating people who fall outside of this demographic. It’s a fine balance!

What’s the process for building a bespoke audio atmosphere for their stores?

We would work with a client to ascertain all their customer insight information, profiles, any available sale or promotion data etc.

Once we have analysed that, we can set about using our years of music and audio expertise to translate this into an effective audio service for that brand and their customers.

The beauty of us working the way we do is that we approach every service differently and tailor it to the client’s specific needs. No two services are built in the same way.

Is music really that important? Can’t shops just play what’s popular? Or play a radio station?

It really is that important!

Imagine your favourite scene from your favourite film; every single piece of music is painstakingly recorded, designed and curated to elicit the exact range of emotions from you that the director want you to feel. That same film scene without the sound would be like trying to drive a car without wheels or an engine! It wouldn’t work very well!

The same applies to retail and commercial environments. The music and audio is an extension of the brand experience that plays on the senses as much as all of the visual communication that you encounter in-store. If we’ve done our job right, it should enhance the experience of your customers, without jarring or clashing with the rest of your branding.

On a much more practical level, we screen all of our music to make sure that it is right for the environment. We listen to lyrics for profanities as well as contextual references. Simply playing the radio carries no guarantees that it will be right for your customers and stores.

Oh, one more thing…How would you feel if an advert for a competitor played out in your store? Playing a commercial radio station in your store means that you’re paying all the licensing costs, and still running the risk of a competing company’s ad being played to your customers!

What’re some of your favourite examples of brands using music well?

McDonald’s changed the game in 2003 when they launched the ‘I’m Lovin’ it’ campaign with a jingle performed by none other than Justin Timberlake.

This was quickly upgraded to a full 3-minute and 42-second song, performed by Timberlake and produced by the Neptunes. This was the first time we were introduced to the new McDonald’s sonic logo which is still in existence today!

After the popularity of the song faded, we were so familiar with the sonic logo, that it didn’t matter whether we heard it whistled, on sleigh bells or on pan pipes! We instantly associated those 5 notes with McDonald’s. Surely that campaign was worth its weight in gold(en arches!).


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August Bank Holiday means a couple of things. It’s likely to rain at some point and of course, it’s the Leeds Festival. Here, KVH Studios head of music picks some of the highlights for the next three days.


The first day of the festival is being headlined by Muse, who don’t have any new material to push, so a greatest hits set would be nice. Away from the main stage Festival Republic and the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage both have a great line up. Festival Republic have Ten Tonnes, Will Joseph Cook, Phantogram, the brilliant Ash and the amazing voice of Tom Grennan, all topped off by The Hunna.

Over on the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage, longtime KVH Studios favourites Fickle Friends, SG Lewis, The Sherlocks and Mura Musa joined by headliners Haim.


While Rat Boy, Circa Waves and Two Door Cinema Club are doing the business on the Main Stage on Saturday, we suggest that you start early and position yourself at the Festival Republic Stage. The awesome Yonaka start proceedings at noon and then are followed by the equally brilliant The Amazons, Louis Berry, The Big Moon and the amazing Cosima.

Elsewhere, we have been big fans of Marika Hackman since 2012, and she brings her latest album to the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage just before 1pm. Another singer that has been on our radar since 2012 is Josephine Vander Gucht. Back then she was known as Layla, now she has joined forces with Anthony West to form Oh Wonder. Their single Ultralife has to be one of the best songs of the year. They are also on NME/BBC Radio 1 stage, at 4.15.


Eminem returns to the Leeds Festival for the first time in 4 years to headline the Main stage on Sunday.

Once again, the Festival Republic and NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage are where it’s at on Sunday. The former has the amazing Japanese House, who we have been following for a couple of years here at KVH Studios and she continues to produce amazing music. Superfood are also performing early doors.

Over on the NME/BBCR1 stage there’s some great acts. Take your pick from Glass Animals, Everything Everything, the truly brilliant Loyle Carner and Sundara Karma.

Elsewhere, there’s artists from both ends of the fame scale. On the Introducing stage are Pale Waves and one of the artists of the moment, Stefflon Dan is playing BBC Radio 1Xtra stage, while the legendary Goldie is on the BBC Radio 1 dance stage.

Full details of the event can be found here, and if you are an armchair fan, the BBC will have coverage of Leeds Festival partner, Reading Festival across the weekend, but obviously the line-up for each day is different in Reading, so check listings for full details.