I’ve been on a self inflicted ban of all things shopping – my version of dry Jan and February, SO I was delighted one of my clients wanted to go on a mini Retail Safari in London.

Whilst fundamentally it was a day of learning, experiencing and re-expressing ideas I also rediscovered the simple pleasure of shopping.

Contrary to my colleagues view our first experience at Audi City was the most disappointing. The concept is based on digitizing the buying experience and although building your car on a screen and seeing it lifestyle is fun it left me feeling that this was just a glorified & expensive ipad app. It lacked the physicality of the purchase, the noise the smell of leather in fact everything that a physical space offers.

Mini on the other hand was pure fun, plenty of interesting models to see, different physical experiences demanding your attention – music, large screen with mini adventures showing, coffee shop, merchandising area and only a smattering of technology.

Then off to PC World on TCR, which on face value could have felt a little scruffy and chaotic, however delve a little deeper and it was a master class in shopper marketing. A wonderful mix of sensory experience combined with the clear educational messages that found a balance between information for those less technically minded and persuasion for those that know what they’re doing but offered cross sell encouragement. They’re buying a TV wall was genius.

New American home furnishings concept store – West Elm – next, which took the reverse approach to shopper comms. The products were beautiful, the styling gorgeous – but no real reasons to buy – particularly on the large ticket items – promotions were low key or invisible and interesting strategy in a fiercely competitive environment.

A final treat – Liberty’s. Shopping personified – reaches out to every emotion – delighting you round every corner. But there’s one problem my spending embargo appeared to be infectious – you could barely move for people but there was a dearth of purple Liberty bags. Converting footfall to sales is something they must be focused on and moving from a tourist destination to a sales house is a monumental shift – hopefully if you believe the TV programme they are beginning to do that – but more work to do I fear.

For me shopping is a spiritual, sensual and emotional experience – buying online just doesn’t deliver the same experience. Omni-channel retailers understand this and amplify each of the channels to give shoppers a richer experience all round. Retail is one of the most exciting sectors to be in – and I’m delighted to part of it. I Just need to play a more active part of it – role on February 28th when I can spend again.

Sue Benson – Managing Director.

PS: London wouldn’t be London if you didn’t see something insane – and a purple cock on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square is up there with the best of them.