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Re-Inventing Retail: Think Customer Experience First

In Retail Real Estate, Concept Stores and Non-Stores are the Next Wave
By Melissa Sievwright – VP, Marketing

The re-invention of retail is underway, driven by tech advances and new shopper preferences. The impact of mobile and online are obvious. Less quantifiable is the attitudinal shift from acquisition to experience among consumers. Millennials and boomers alike are opting to invest in experiences over things. Think travel, live performance, hobbies, events, fitness – instead of fashion, jewelry, footwear or furniture. (One exception? Tech products.)

What is a retailer to do? As regional leaders in retail real estate, we are already seeing changes in store design and service. Even more intriguing is the breakthrough ideas put into play by some major retail re-inventors. They are melding lifestyle with shopping and giving consumers a reason to step into the store. We have rounded up some of the big ones here.

Big Box Retailers Get Out of the Box
Staples is the latest story. With traffic declining in its mammoth stores (averaging 20,000 square feet), this major name in office supplies and services has just launched communal workspaces carved out of three suburban Boston stores. Managed by Staples’ partner Workbar, the 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot areas offer conference rooms, work stations, and private phone rooms, Wi-Fi and beverage service, plus immediate access to all the office supplies members need to buy. Read more here.

And then there’s Target’s Open House, located beneath its store in San Francisco’s Metreon Center. The 3,500-square-foot space features a walk-through house of acrylic panels filled with interconnected products from the Internet of Things. It is authentic “retail-tainment” and a dazzling demonstration of how connected devices (all available upstairs at Target) work in sync to solve everyday problems in home management and maintenance. Open House also hosts meetings, events and product launches. Take a peek at what’s happening in this press release.

The New Retail: All About Interactivity
When it comes to physically engaging the shopper, Reebok’s FitHub is the champ. “Gear, Classes and Camaraderie” is the brand promise, and Reebok is delivering in an over-the-top in every way style. Go inside the company’s latest Manhattan mega-store and see how far interactivity can go.

The Non-Store Could Be the New Store
Samsung 837, “where tech and culture collide,” is the electronic giant’s 40,000-square-foot tech playground in the heart of New York City’s Meatpacking district. Nothing is for sale at this retail destination. Step inside and fall in love with the latest Samsung products – which you can then buy online. Live music, a VR tunnel, cafe, workshop and connections with events like the Tribeca Film Festival draw crowds. People do not need another store, says Zach Overton, VP and GM of the space. “They need a place where they can have a deep dive into the brand.” Take a deep dive with this video shot at Samsung 837.

Bonobos Takes Showrooming to a New Level
The hot name in menswear built its brand on the perfect fit. Its 20 Guideshops bolster that promise by focusing solely on customer service. There’s nothing to buy at Guideshop. Rather, visitors find samples of every piece of inventory in all sizes, colors and fabrics. Make an appointment with a Bonobos associate (aka a ninja) and get the perfect item – which is then ordered online for next-day delivery. For this retailer, with no inventory management at the store-level and no stockroom to manage, what’s not to like? Read more here.

Retailers Don’t Need Big Budgets to Be Re-inventors

Part 2 of this blog will share tips for smaller players who want to join this retail trend and become re-inventors, too.