The Retail Experience

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? I hope so.

I am personally glad that I don’t need to see the inside of a shopping centre until after Christmas now, but I’ve never been more aware of the “retail experience” than I have this year. Maybe because we’ve been working with a lot more small businesses in the retail sector I’ve been watching how retail operates more closely.

With the doom and gloom of the economic downturn this year, a lot of retailers I’ve spoken to have been fretting about less sales. However, there still seems to be a great number of stores doing remarkably well. But while walking through Southland, I noticed something strange: some stores were packed, and then the store next door would be empty – and I had to ask myself why.

Why couldn’t I get past the door of T2 – it’s a packaged tea shop, it’s not like they’re selling gold – but when I walked in I noticed there were people at the bar in the middle of the store, getting drinks. Then there were other shoppers all around a big table smelling all the open tea leaves available. And people were in the store for what seemed like an eternity.

The Apple store was no different. And why? They have experiences in their stores. They aren’t just shelves of products with a counter to pay for goods. You get to try things out, you get to touch, sense – experience. If retail is going to move forward in the time of online sales skyrocketing, I have a feeling this is the way more stores are going to go. A good experience is worth going back to – not just to purchase something for the cheapest price, or the closest store – but to be able to leave a store and tell a story of what you did while visiting.

It’s beginning to change the way I look at retail.

That’s it for 2011. All of us here hope you have a great Christmas and new year, and we will see you in 2012!