It is a tactic from way back, OG retail, an idea almost as ancient as the grandest department stores. This is the venus fly trap of impulse buys, founded on the idea that the more time you spend in the space, the more likely you are to buy something and to be fair there’s lots of good evidence to back this summation up.
Like any trend it has had its ups and downs and reinventions but lately the idea has been taking hold again, but this time with a few key differences. Younger generations are driving a trend for a new kind of retail space that blurs the line between social hangout, workplace and marketplace. The now infamous WeWork and other similar concepts have helped shape this mindset leading to people no longer separating the ideas of work and life, meaning a store is now considered as good a place as any to work, exercise, socialise, eat or maybe even shop in from time to time.
At Clarity our recent retail disruption report focused on how retailers are developing strategies to tackle increasingly difficult operating conditions, and the rise of destination stores is something we are tracking closely. The instore restaurant used to be seen as nothing more than a mere onsite amenity and often the preserve of the biggest chains but that is all changing as smaller brands, single-location boutiques and even banks start to recognise the pull of a quality F&B offering.
It can be tempting to try and do it all yourself and maintain complete control over the operation like the successful TOMS café stores. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie originally conceived the cafe-stores as places that would be more than just a retail outlet, with the first one in Venice, California, near his home, offering laid back vibes, yoga, movie nights and craft evenings in addition to sales of shoes, eyeglasses and their own TOMS roasting co. coffee. By keeping close control over the hospitality experience, TOMS can always ensure their food offer properly reflects the brand and its values and the spin-off into cafes has also helped to uncover fresh global revenue streams and a new CSR mission through its coffee bean trade. However some of the more exciting examples of this store crossover come from brands that chose to partner instead of going it alone.
The Sweaty Betty store in Soho perfectly demonstrates the power of well-selected partnerships, delivering an engaging retail concept that incorporates a basement gym, Farm girl cafe and blow dry bar from Duck & Dry. The website description states: “Three floors of fashion, fitness, food and beauty. Shop the collection, let London’s best workout studios put you through your paces, enjoy the infamous avo toast at the Farm Girl café and then treat your hair to a blow-dry at Duck & Dry! You could spend a whole day at No. 1 Carnaby!” In theory the store could be used by someone who never buys a single item of clothing from Sweaty Betty, instead just visiting for yoga classes and a healthy breakfast after their workout. The likelihood of them completely resisting a purchase seems pretty slim though as their dwell time in store increases and they are constantly being exposed to yoga trainers wearing the latest Sweaty Betty must-have items. An interesting thing also starts to happen when you have multiple activities happening in the same place at the same time. A sense of community feeling starts to grow. The café becomes the glue that binds the experience together ensuring that people stay to chat over lunch or a coffee.. It creates more meaningful brand interactions without feeling too forced.
Lululemon in Chicago, a fellow lifestyle brand, is perhaps the best in class example of experience driven retail.