The UK's Abbey National has joined forces with the Costa coffee chain and The Carphone Warehouse to open an innovative superstore in Croydon.
Customers visiting the Abbey National Croydon superstore will be able to relax and look at their bank account details on a WAP phone whilst knocking back an espresso. The store features a customer lounge with newspapers and plasma screens broadcasting current affairs and a 'discover and learn zone' where customers can learn about how technology can help them manage their financial affairs.
The Carphone Warehouse - the UK's largest independent mobile phone retailer - will be on hand to offer advice on choosing the right phone and explaining to customers how to use the mobile Internet to access their accounts.
Gary Hockey-Morley, Abbey National's director of retail marketing describes the discover and learn area as "the clearest demonstration of our commitment to 'clicks and bricks', as it offers e-commerce demonstrations and practical help with interactive TV, internet and WAP technology".
Visitors to the store will also be able to participate in 30-minute 'finance clinics' offering on-the-spot personal finance health checks and advice. Kids will be catered for in a designated play area.
Hockey-Morley says: "The traditional image of the stuffy and unfriendly bank branch died today in Croydon when we opened our first banking superstore. Opening the superstore here has given us the opportunity to road-test a new, more modern look to our signs, logo and banking environment, and to offer a new customer experience."
The concept for the store was developed by design consultancy First Partnership. Jonathan Blakeney, director, First Partnership comments: "Our objective was to increase the time customers spend in the store, by using design to create an environment which actively encourages people to visit and relax. An open frontage and uncluttered in-store layout has created a warmer and more inviting atmosphere for passers-by."
Abbey National announced a deal with Costa in December 1999 to install cafés in its branches. Croydon is the fifth branch to be converted, and will be followed shortly by others in Leeds and Glasgow. The bank describes the initiative as a great success and has advanced plans to open as many as 50 Costa branches by the end of 2002.