As we’ve been writing about recently, big box stores are finished. Think about Best Buy, Target, and Kohl’s, which are slimming down from 100,000 square foot spaces. Their goals now are to connect with customers in smaller spaces, while finding partners to rent out their empty spaces. Here are some of the new and innovative ideas about store formats that are currently being implemented.
1. Showroom Concept
According to Ben Fischman, founder of shopping site Rue La La, no retail store wants to be stuck with seven to 10-year leases and will opt for shorter leases of three to five years. “Malls aren’t dead, retailers are dead,” he said. With his latest venture, Italian shoemaker M. Gemi, he operates out of two full-time showrooms with occasional pop-up trucks. They only stock one size of each style, and customers choose their handmade shoes, pay, and get their shoes delivered to their door later that day.
2. Showroom Concept Alternative: Brand Storytelling
But what happens when the showroom model isn’t appropriate? When it comes to buying a suitcase, you will probably realize you need one at the last minute and will want to purchase it and take it home immediately. Trendy luggage company, Away Travel co-founder Jen Rubio believes that having inventory is essential for their product. The three-year-old company, which has stores in New York City, Austin, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, all showcase one product: carry on luggage. It comes in various sizes and colors, but the basic product is the same. However, their stores are not about their product, but about travel. When you enter their New York City store, you first see a coffee shop and a wall of travel books and guides. It’s only at the back of the store where you’ll find the luggage. “It’s easy to talk about being a lifestyle brand, but it’s another thing to take a 1,200 square foot store with one product and build out in a way to say there’s more about the brand than the suitcase,” says Rubio.
3. Community Engagement
Number one millennial brand in Canada, Frank and Oak, has built 17 stores throughout the country since 2012. With $40 million in funding, the Montreal based company invested heavily in mobile as stores are viewed as media. According to Founder Ethan Song, you don’t need stores to make a sale. “It’s a choice you need to make for your brand, he says. It’s about what kind of experience you want to offer.” He doesn’t measure success by sales per square foot, but by how they engage with creative communities. They grow existing stores to build markets, instead of opening stores, betting that the future of retail is in personalization and data on mobile. “One theory is customers are on phones in your store,” he said. “Why would you add more screens when customers already have them?”
4. Pop-up Shops With a Purpose
Pop-up stores are a trend that’s here to stay. Pop-ups designed by Appear Here, nicknamed “the Airbnb of retail,” has worked with 150,000 brands around the globe, from Tory Burch to Moleskine. Founder and CEO Ross Bailey points out that as lease lengths decrease, entrepreneurs are thriving. His real estate company is now shortening leases from six months to six days. He believes every brand needs a brick and mortar presence, even for a short time, and pop-ups allow brands with smaller budgets to succeed. No flashy screens needed as the store is the media. One successful project in one of London’s worst subway stations brought jazz cafes, bike stores, and flower shops.
5. Service Centers
Nordstrom’s merchandise-free Local store in Los Angeles, which opened last fall, created a buzz not for its new fall line or immersive digital experience, but for its service. The 3,000 square foot space caters to every customer’s need, with nail technicians, tailors, bartenders, and free consultations with Nordstrom and Trunk Club stylists from neighbouring stores. Here, no one leaves the store with products. Customer service and personalization is the key to their success. According to Shea Jensen, SVP of customer experience at Nordstrom, the concept is about building brand loyalty and eventually sales at the neighbourhood level. The store has become THE neighbourhood hub. “What we are hoping to do at Nordstrom Local is bring some of the most popular or highly demanded services closer to our customers, right there in their own neighborhood, so they can access our services and our people at a time and place that works for them, says Jensen.”
6. Inspiration Hubs
People crave a unique touch, as cookie-cutter stores are seen as boring. Since customers have different needs, Sephora’s SVP Bridget Dolan, devised three scenarios to attract and please customers: inspiration, mission-driven, and quick stop. She aims for Sephora stores to become a giant playground for beauty fans, with the best digital tools, expert beauty consultants and an emphasis on merchandising. Each Sephora store is focused on the experiential, from its Beauty TIP workshop to its Sephora Studio. There is an emphasis on a fun shopping process, and it’s a big success story.
How do you think the future of retail will change? Let us know in the comments!
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