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Adding excitement to the shopping experience

With bricks-and-mortar retail in decline, clever retailers are coming up with innovative ways to lure shoppers

Neff Appliances Showroom in Ballymount, Dublin, does not sell anything in the store, except ideas. The showroom houses three brands – Neff, Bosch and Siemens – and clients come to see how products work and get an idea of what they might like in their own kitchens.

Neff Appliances Showroom in Ballymount, Dublin, does not sell anything in the store, except ideas. The showroom houses three brands – Neff, Bosch and Siemens – and clients come to see how products work and get an idea of what they might like in their own kitchens.

 

Retail futurist Howard Saunders recently asked, “If we don’t need any more stuff, what are shops for?” Of course, there will always be a need for items to be replenished, but we are seeing something of a backlash when it comes to buying “stuff” just for the sake of it. On Netflix, Marie Kondo is cleverly helping people clear out their houses full of “stuff” in order to create a more streamlined living space. And there is a wave of influencers challenging people to shop more thriftily and with more thought for the environment – in charity shops or second-hand stores.

At a time when we are also seeing fewer bricks and more clicks – in August 2016 iconic retailer Macy’s said it would close about 100 stores, and in May 2018 M&S announced plans to shut about 150 stores – and shoppers are relying more heavily on online for their retail needs, what can be done to excite shoppers once again and encourage them to see the act of shopping as a desirable experience?

Saunders says clever retailers are coming up with innovative solutions, in the form of brand playgrounds – experiences created for shoppers that will excite them about the products they sell. Within that experience there is usually no hard sell, and no obligation to buy, but, of course, the hope being that you will.

A number of brands, both in Ireland and further afield, are creating events, classes, pop-ups or playgrounds for the consumer or client, with the aim of engaging them with the brand or product in a tangible way once again.

Canadian exercise clothing brand Lululemon has strong ties with its local communities around the world and in the Dublin concession, which is located in Brown Thomas, it holds regular yoga and Pilates classes – for free.

Exercise clothing brand Lululemon holds regular yoga and Pilates classes in its Dublin concession, which is located in Brown Thomas.
Exercise clothing brand Lululemon holds regular yoga and Pilates classes in its Dublin concession, which is located in Brown Thomas.

Queues can be seen outside the Grafton Street store on Sunday mornings, as gym lovers get to sample a selection of classes taught by highly qualified instructors from Ireland and around the world. The classes are held on the shop floor, mats and snacks are provided and very many participants will be wearing the latest Lululemon gear to class, creating that desire for the product among fellow attendees.

Neff Appliances Showroom in Ballymount, Dublin, is not a shop. It does not sell anything in the store, except ideas. The bright, airy showroom houses three brands – Neff, Bosch and Siemens – and clients come to see how products work and get an idea of what they might like in their own kitchens. But the brand does so in an innovative way, through a number of cookery demonstrations and hands-on workshops that are held in a purpose-built kitchen. Up to 20 people can take part in the workshops, where participants get to prepare, cook and eat five dishes on the day. All food is cooked in one of the branded ovens, so those attending learn how to get optimum results from the product or those who are in the market for a new product can see which one might suit them best.

Client experience

Realm is an interior design studio delivering bespoke lifestyle solutions for its clients and it hosts Bulthaup, Gaggenau, Agape, Porro, Living Divani and Carl Hanson. Headed up by founder Richard Fagan and creative director Michelle Dunne, the team’s love of interior design is influenced by their passion for food, travel and experiences. This sparked its latest client experience series, ‘In the Realm of . . .’ – a number of workshops focusing on anything from architecture to wine, to food producers.

“We want to collaborate with the most exciting futurists and experts in fields that connect with design and at-home life. The aim of the workshop is two-fold – to deliver elevated client experiences, but also to be inspired so our clients can be too,” the duo say.

Realm is an interior design studio delivering bespoke lifestyle solutions.
Realm is an interior design studio delivering bespoke lifestyle solutions.

‘In the Realm of . . . ’ series is hosted at its state-of-the-art studios, and is limited to clients. The most recent workshop ‘In the Realm of . . . Niall O’Connor’ was an intimate wine-tasting workshop with general manager/sommelier of Liath (formerly Heron & Grey), who explored wines from countries that have been producing them for thousands of years, but are only coming into the spotlight now.

Restaurants are getting in on the act too. Flax & Beets in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in Dublin holds a number of Brunch Bootcamps, which includes a bootcamp fitness session taught by Flax & Beets founder and personal trainer Jessica Nolan, which is then followed by brunch. It also holds Flax Fam events – parent and child workout classes based on fun fitness games followed by a nutritious breakfast designed by its medicinal chef Rachel Graham.

Moving further afield, the Dreamery by Casper is a concept thought up by Casper Mattresses, which were voted one of Time Magazine’s 25 best inventions of 2015. In New York city, you can book a 45-minute nap in the Dreamery, where you can wind down in the lounge, change into PJs and lie in your own Casper nook – a quiet comfortable pod with a Casper mattress bed, all while listening to the Headspace mindfulness app on earphones. Clients then freshen up with a coffee before returning to their daily lives. There is a charge for this and at $25 dollars for 45 minutes it isn’t cheap, but the store is always busy.

The Runaway Beers and Wines is a pop-up bar set up by sportswear brand New Balance, which has teamed up with fitness app Strava to get people to run a marathon by paying them in beer. Miles or kilometres totted up on the Strava app are the only currency accepted at the Runaway bar in central London.

A spokesperson for New Balance UK and Ireland said of the venture, “We’re very excited to open our very first New Balance pub and look forward to welcoming runners to the bar to exchange their miles for pints. The Runaway Pub brings our Everybody’s Race campaign to life and aims to empower runners throughout their weeks of training, offering an escape or reward when needed and a hub for the running community to come together and support each other.”

Clothing store with no clothes

A couple of years ago, luxury department store Nordstrom opened a clothing store with no clothes, none that you can buy anyway. The 3,000sq ft store in California focuses more on customer service – stylists helping shoppers put together a bespoke wardrobe, tailoring and manicures all while having a juice or a glass of wine. The space doubles as a pick-up and return point for online purchases.

Canadian parka brand Kanuk created a unique in-store experience at its flagship store in Montreal – a cold room to test jackets in real winter conditions. At minus 25 with a windchill factor generated by a ventilation system, Kanuk chief executive Richard Laniel calls this “shoppertainment”.

Laniel sums up the fight between bricks-and-mortar stores and online succinctly. “In today’s multi-channel world, there is such a thing as showrooming. Customers need a reason to go to a store. The only reason you go to a store today is because it’s exciting, it’s memorable.”