Retail is evolving, but that does not have to be a negative. Read on to learn how 5 growing retailers are delivering exceptional in-store experiences that are boosting their bottom lines.
Despite the advent of e-commerce and ongoing media reports of “the death of retail,” some retailers are doing just fine, thank you. How? By providing consumers with experiences that go above and beyond what has been historically delivered by the many retailers whose doors have closed completely, or in certain locations. In just the past year, stalwarts like Macys, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney, Christopher & Banks and many more have felt the squeeze hitting old fashioned retailers.
Yet others are thriving. How? Be delivering experiences that consumers just can’t replicate online.
Daring to Be Different
Faherty Brand is one example. Founded by twin brothers Mike and Alex Faherty who profess a life-long dream “spent by the water, around a bonfire, catching waves or watching sunrises,” the brand only has nine storefronts—for now—but is generating a lot of buzz. Faherty’s is different—the aesthetic, the clothes, the colors, the vibe. With shops located just blocks from beaches the stores appeal to a certain kind of customer. The kind, like the Faherty brothers, who love the beach life.
Spurred by the quest to create the perfect sweater, designer Dorian Lightbown launched NIC+ZOE in Boston in 2006, naming the fashion brand after her children, Nicholas and Zoe. Designed to address the needs of today’s busy, multi-dimensional women, the brand is focused on creating clothes that are high quality, comfortable and stylish.
While Faherty and NIC+ZOE are relatively new entrants to the retail market, Arezzo & Co proves that retailers don’t have to be new to be relevant. Founded in 1972, Arezzo sells women’s footwear—coming out with 18-21 collections every year and continuing to be covered in top fashion media outlets. In 2018 the company expanded into the US with a store on Madison Avenue and, this year, established its new corporate headquarters in North America to solidify expansion here. The company is poised to be around for the long term. Its website timeline extends to 2154. How has the brand managed to stay relevant? By maintaining a strong customer focus and staying ahead of trends in Brazilian women’s fashions and design.
Engaging retail interactions in the 21st century are more tactile and experiential than transactional. Endeavor Athletic is a great example of this. An emerging activewear company founded by a collective of elite and former professional athletes, this Philadelphia-based company recently celebrated the grand opening of its sixth store in the Wharf District of Washington, D.C. The stores pop-up strategy allows it to “meet the customer wherever they are—not just on their phones—but where they live, work and play—without the expensive, long-term entanglements of legacy brands,” says president and CEO Terry Tracy.
“We are combining three powerful and enduring trends—craft, luxury and active—in our locations and in a way that is truly distinct in our category,” says Tracy. In-store activities like yoga classes, boot camps, juice bars, happy hours, and personal shopping appointments held to drive traffic and loyalty, Tracy says. “When you sell luxury good, the three-dimensional experience is invaluable. You have to feel our fabrics and see what goes into the technical design and construction to really get it.” It’s a retail experience that really is an experience—one that e-commerce sites simply can’t replicate.
At Material Good, a “hidden luxury retailer” in Soho in New York City, co-owner Rob Ronen says, “I want people to be able to come in and, you know, enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of Champagne, not necessarily just to buy something. Just to hang out.” He describes the aesthetic a “unforced luxury.” The first retail project for interior designer Meg Sharpe, the store draws inspiration from the French and British fashion retail concept stores Corso Como and Dover Street Market. The store is all about creating relationships and tailoring services to each individual client—like offering bespoke one-on-one client services for clients looking for the perfect engagement ring.
Not for Everyone—Just For Me
If there’s one thing that these, and other, successful 21st century retailers have in common it may be the ability to establish an aura of exclusivity. E-commerce is for the masses; specialty retailers cater to individuals and focus on creating individualized experiences.
Today’s consumers aren’t always looking for the kind of quick convenience and deals that large retailers like Amazon and Walmart offer. Sometimes they’re looking for uniqueness, pampering and tactile experiences that stores like Faherty Brand, NIC+Zoe, Arezzo & Co, Endeavor Athletic and Material Good are offering. In fact, the emerging craving for real-world, real-life and real-people experiences is likely to see more innovative retailers capitalizing on consumers’ growing needs for connection.
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