Innovación: At Luxury Stores, It Isn’t Shopping, It’s an Experience.
Abril 18, 2017
Urban specialty shops aim to counter the internet by turning themselves into destinations offering discoveries, dining options and human connections
When the fashion emporium FortyFiveTen decided to expand, the suburban store built a huge new location in downtown Dallas. And it decided to break away from the usual retail model.
Instead of just a place to buy, FortyFiveTen is positioning itself as a place to spend the day, like many customers’ grandmothers once did at Neiman Marcus. There are lounges for charging electronics, a fine-dining restaurant called Mirador, a champagne bar called Copper Bar and even a small book store, as well as pitchers of ice tea on every floor.
“Everyone can sit on a bed with their finger on a phone,” says Brian Bolke, the store’s co-founder. “We’ve got to give them a 360-degree experience to get them out of there.”
What do luxury retailers in urban areas do when they face heavy pressure from the internet? Make their stores an experience. The high-end stores of tomorrow won’t try to compete with online retailers on price or convenience. Instead, they’ll do what many luxe shops are experimenting with now—turning themselves into destinations that customers go to visit instead of simply shop.
Stores will offer human connections, entertaining discoveries and dining options. And instead of being designed to feature one kind of inventory, the stores will function like pop-ups—completely changing what they offer from time to time, or even sweeping products aside to host community events.
“Selling things isn’t going to be obvious. It’s going to be about selling experiences,” says John Bricker, creative director for Gensler, one of the world’s largest architectural firms with a global retail design practice.
Driving this trend is Gen Z coming into its own. This cohort of youths born after 1995—the biggest consumer group ever—has never experienced life without online shopping. These digital-native shoppers will determine how stores look and function, particularly in cities, where online alternatives with two-hour delivery windows are already plentiful.
One retailer experimenting with ways to reach a new generation is Story, located near the touristy Meatpacking District in New York City. It doesn’t have a fixed inventory or theme; it rotates between offerings, whether it’s products—such as a trunk show of Shana Luther handbags—or services such as meditation classes.
Founder Rachel Shechtman describes Story’s concept as the “physical presence” of LinkedIn and Facebook —a place that friends can explore together and discover unusual products or experiences. Story charges sponsors a fee starting at $500,000 to have the shop themed with products and events for several weeks. Cigna, for instance, sponsored a health and wellness theme where Story offered yoga classes by day and panels on the future of health care by evening, while selling nutritional and other health-minded products.
In some cases, retailers go so far to create destinations that they don’t even try to sell their signature products. The Gensler-designed Cadillac House in the lobby of the car maker’s New York headquarters is an art gallery and coffeehouse, with luxe white sedans on display by the entrance. People wander in for free Wi-Fi, then get familiar with the car brand by examining the vehicles, says Mr. Bricker. (The cars can’t be purchased there; legally, one must buy from a dealer.)
But others offer a much simpler take on the idea. Aurora and Anthony Mazzei’s two Fair Folks & a Goat outlets in Manhattan blur the lines between coffee shop, apparel boutique and membership club. For a $35 monthly fee, members drink all the espresso or tea they want, while they shop for high-end apparel and accessories such as Kooba handbags, jewelry and art. (Nonmembers can order a la carte.)
New in the game
The strategy of providing a total experience is also spreading to independent retailers that aren’t aiming solely at high-end customers.
In Minneapolis, Eric Dayton and his brother Andrew sought an underserved residential neighborhood called the North Loop to locate Askov Finlayson.
The store has gained national recognition for its strong point of view—a focus on menswear and goods made in or for the Northern U.S. The store is part of what the Daytons call “a healthy little ecosystem” operating alongside their two restaurants and a bar, creating a location zone where it’s possible to eat or shop at nearly any time of day.
These shifts are being followed by mass retailers as well. The idea: to move beyond the big-box strategy of the past—where companies built giant stores that people would go out of their way to visit—and build specially tailored stores in urban areas where customers live.
Target recently decided to invest $7 billion in renovating its huge suburban stores and building new small-format urban stores, in a strategy to use the large stores as distribution centers for digital orders while creating a network of small city stores that will be located within easy reach of urban dwellers, both for offline shopping and picking up or returning online orders.
Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive officer, says products will be selected for local populations by store managers who place orders from a catalog—less pet food and more snacks and notebooks for a store near a college campus, for instance.
Target looked at stores like Story in forming the strategy. “We learned a lot about agility,” from Story, Mr. Cornell says.
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