Retailers Invite Store Traffic with Innovative Environments

Retail Real Estate Trend: Shopping Experiences Unmatched Online

The battle for in-store traffic continues with retailers striving to lure shoppers away from their screens and into the aisles. Top retailers are leading the way with a shift in interior design that transforms the store from the transactional to the experiential. Their goal? To offer something online can’t match – at least in the foreseeable future – sensory engagement that brings joy back to shopping. Will these efforts drive consumers, especially the experience-loving Millennials, through the doors of the bricks and mortars? It’s a retail trend worth watching. And if it works, worth imitating. Reinvented retail environments range from the participatory to the digitally enhanced. Here’s what’s happening inside some of America’s most entertaining stores.

The Brand That Says “Just Do It” Does Participation Big Time

There’s no place like Nike. Step into one of its multi-level flagship stores and you can’t resist getting into the game. Test shoes on a basketball half-court, a treadmill surrounded by LED sensors, or a mini soccer field. Nike’s environments have earned the brand the nickname: “The Disney World” of sneakers. And the action isn’t limited to the flagships. Smaller Nike stores are featuring invitation-only events like “Sneakeasy,” pop-up celebrations of Air Max Day each March with participatory experiences themed to Nike’s iconic athletic shoe. Reebok with its fitness club equipment and Lululemon with yoga classes and demos are following Nike’s playbook but the “Just Do It” brand remains the champ of participatory retailing. (Read more: http://www.gq.com/story/nike-new-york-city-store-soho)

New PetSmarts are About More Than Kibble and Collars

PetSmart, the big name in pet supplies, has been in expansion mode, opening over 80 stores last year for a total of 1,500 locations in North America. In late 2106, they reinvented their basic retail concept with PetSmart PetSpas. These petite versions of the standard template feature a concierge desk, luxe washing bays where “pet parents” can bathe and dry their dogs, while enjoying a curated playlist, grooming salon, coffee lounge, and vet services. There’s a selection of canine accessories and high-performance dog food, but the spas are all about participation in pet care and enhancing the human-animal bond.

Verizon and Chase Bank Reinvent to Draw the Tech-Savvy

Decluttering the customer experience is behind the reinvention of both Verizon’s stores and Chase’s branches. Both recognize the need to cater to an empowered and knowledgeable customer base that’s unlikely to respond to twentieth-century design.

Verizon has simplified and downsized their stores, with sleek displays that invite interaction with products typical shoppers have already reviewed online. Staffers consult rather than sell.

It’s a similar story at Chase. Cavernous marble bank lobbies have gone simple and compact, and tellers’ counters have been replaced with information kiosks and ATMs that appeal to tech-oriented clients. Financial consultants, tablets in hand, roam the floor to provide guidance on loans and investments.

Urban Outfitters: The Retailer that Invented Reinvention

Variety, innovation, surprises – that’s Urban Outfitters, the retailer that reinvents itself season by season and store by store. For more than 40 years, this brand has been all about changing its face. Not even its logo is consistent. And while many youth-oriented retailers are struggling, UO is winning the Millennials and Gen-Ys. A pioneer in pop-ups and amenities like coffee lounges and galleries, Urban Outfitters makes every shopping trip an experience.

Retail Trend: Reinventing the Big Box

Reinventing the in-store environment has caught the attention of the big box retailers, too. Walmart is tinkering with ways to upgrade the shopping experience and beat back competitors. Recent re-workings include improved product displays, re-formatting prepared foods and produce sections, and opening smaller, cozier stores.

Cozy seems like something other big boxes are striving for. Lowe’s, the home improvement giant, is rolling out urban branches with smaller dimensions. Mega-stores will feel smaller and more familiar with Lowe’s new navigation app that guides customers to the item they’re after. No more “lost in the big box” feeling at Lowe’s.

Will Reinvention Rescue Bricks and Mortar Retailers?

Decades ago, shopping trips were viewed as a pleasure, the chance to discover new things in inviting surroundings. Will new in-store environments restore the joy of shopping in the 21st century? Are the most innovative concepts scalable? Retailers are working hard to make that happen. We’ll be watching for the results of this retail real estate trend.