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Clicks & Bricks


Technology is revolutionizing the way consumers shop, both in stores and online. Here is how one retailer is working to bridge both worlds.

British retailer Marks & Spencer is taking a giant leap forward in its goal to becoming a multichannel leader and merging the worlds of physical and online shopping with the opening of its new concept store in Amsterdam.

The centerpiece of the 5,000-sq.-ft. space — which marks the company's return to the Netherlands after a 10-year absence — is an "E-Boutique" dedicated to womenswear.

The shop features what the retailer calls "the world's first virtual rail," a display that seamlessly integrates digital rails with physical rails of clothing. It is made up of three stacked 46-in. video screens and three physical rails, with each holding about 50 items of clothing. The display will showcase the latest trends and be updated every six weeks.

Shoppers can place orders for free delivery to the store through in-store order points (photo left) or with iPad-equipped associates. Or they can make purchases via their own mobile phones, using the store's free Wi-Fi. Customers can also "shop to go," choosing from the edited selection of fashions that are available to buy in-store on any given day.

"The Netherlands has embraced online shopping — customers adore the ease and convenience of buying clothes this way, which is why we were determined to return with our very latest multichannel thinking," said Laura Wade-Gery, executive director e-commerce multichannel at Marks & Spencer. "The E-boutique … allows us to offer our latest fashion collections from a much smaller footprint."

The rest of the store is dedicated primarily to food and beverages, ranging from sandwiches, salads and wines to M&S' signature prepared meals and groceries.

The Amsterdam concept shop is just the beginning of M&S' push into the Netherlands. The company has also launched a new Dutch website, and plans to open a full-line store in The Hague in 2014, and a flagship in Amsterdam by spring 2015.

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