St Albans gives new meaning to window shopping

Living Magazines The Bid Shop St Albans

Independent shops, restaurants, bars, hairdressers and salons in the cathedral city of St Albans in Hertfordshire have become the first retailers in the UK to trial a revolutionary new technology to help both shops and shoppers in the current challenging climate. The technology is designed to help nervous customers feel safer when they are shopping and to give retailers with small shop spaces the capacity to accommodate more shoppers.

Contactless Window Shopping is the brainchild of marketing consultant Jez Dutton from design consultancy That Happy Place and created using near field communications (NFC) technology. It involves placing tags in shop windows that shoppers can scan using their smart phones, taking them directly to the shop’s website where they can directly browse and buy from the shop’s range of products.

This means customers can be inspired by the shop window, but buy without even going in to the shop. The product is then delivered to the customer’s house.

Restaurant and bar owners, along with hairdressers and beauty salons are also trialling this revolutionary technology, giving their customers the opportunity to directly book appointments through the tag in their premises’ window.

Some 13 shops in St Albans have signed up so far including: Gymboree; Headcase Barbers; Hers N Sirs; Eve & Adam; The Rug Maker; Cositas; The Dressing Room; Jago Jewellers; Refill Pantry; St Albans Museum & Gallery; and Kingshill Jewellers.

Talking about designing the new technology, Dutton said: ‘Right now, many independent high-street shops have been badly hit: they are either temporarily closed or they have to accommodate queuing outside, and both are terrible for business. However, they did have their shop windows and an online presence. And meanwhile everyone has quickly adopted contactless payment via their phones.

‘Out of this was created Contactless Window Shopping to ensure a fast, frictionless way of connecting the high-street presence to the online one: finding products, booking appointments, seeing opening hours or even accessing menus. I’m delighted that St Albans is the first high street in the UK to roll this out and hopefully it will help many businesses get back on their feet sooner.

The St Albans Business Improvement District (BID), which represents 500 city-centre businesses, is spearheading the introduction of this technology.

Co-chairs of the St Albans BID, Councillor Mandy McNeill, Portfolio Holder Business, Culture and Tourism, and Sarah Gillow, owner of luxury jewellers Galio, said: ‘We are delighted to be trialling this new technology to help shoppers shop safely and to support our independent businesses during this difficult time.

‘With some of our smaller shops having limited capacity for customers, this tech means that you can literally window shop with one tap from your smart phone.’