If I plan to buy a car, I want to drive it first. It’s the same with a new pair of jeans. I want to try them on before I make a purchase. Many consumer have given up this touch-and-feel aspect of merchandising, preferring the convenience of online shopping. To counter this trend, bric and mortar stores are fighting back, turning their establishments into destination sites. Shop owners are betting customers will want to examine the merchandise if the experience is fun.
As writer Lindsey Rupp explains, retailers are mixing entertainment with sales promotions. (“Selling Experience,” by Linsey Rupp, Bloomberg Businessweek, Year Ahead Issue, October 2016, pg. 60.) No more quick stops for dog food. Pet Smart has opened its first Pet Spa with “amenities for both pets and humans.” (Ibid pg. 62) Lululemon, the athletic retailer, plans to offer yoga classes in their shops. Apple will follow suit with in-store digital art and video workshops.
Urban Outfitters uses a restaurant to entice customers into its premises. Calbela goes further. They will offer hunters in-store lessons on how to dress their kill. Story anticipates changing its concept each season. First up, with Pepsi as a sponsor, it will offer temporary tattoos, emoji-covered yoga pants and a counter where customers can design tee shirts and I-phone covers. And, no more schlepping through Home Depot to stare at gas ovens. A shop in Soho, New York, is whipping up personal dishes for clients interested in a demonstration on gas cooking.
No one knows how far these bric and mortar stores will go to attract customers, but when West Elm, the furniture division of William-Sonoma, announced it “will open a chain of hotels in 2018 to develop happy memories for its customers, my little grey cells started buzzing. (Ibid pg. 62)