Brick-and-mortar retailers are still struggling to find a way to compete efficiently with their eCommerce counterparts.
Lower prices, endless offerings and the anonymity that online shopping provides continues to drive online sales among younger shoppers. Increased pressure from the ongoing rise of eCommerce has resulted in a number of bankruptcies and store shuttering among top retailers, including Toys “R” Us, Payless Shoe Source, The Limited and J.C. Penney.
But not every brick-and-mortar shop is ready to give up the fight. There’s a new model in town: the retail showroom.
Retail Showrooming Sells an Experience…
The concept behind the retail showroom is completely counterintuitive for the modern retailer.
For one thing, floor space is limited to a fraction of that of the retailers’ traditional stores. For example, Nordstrom Local in Los Angeles is a mere 3,000 square feet as opposed to the full department store just 10 minutes away that consumes 122,000 square feet of real estate.
Inventory in these showrooms is limited or entirely non-existent. So, what are these shops good for? Well, they act as a hub for customers to connect to retailers in more intimate ways. Shop employees can help customers get accurate measurements so they choose the right fit, give style advice, or, in the case of Nordstrom, pour a drink for shoppers who prefer fashion with a glass of wine.
… and Experience is Profitable
As it turns out, the intimate, experience-driven showrooming experiments retailers are trying across the country are starting to pay off big time. According to reporting in The New York Times, under the right conditions, showrooms can produce as much as five times the revenue per square foot as traditional shopping mall stores.
Of course, the showroom model won’t work for every retailer. The market has to be one that can appreciate a slower shopping experience, one that needs or wants the attention of what amounts to a personal shopper and the product line has to be one that a customer is comfortable buying online.
Retail showrooms are the next evolution of the pop-up store for the customer who doesn’t love browsing in tightly-packed retail stores and will happily wait a few days for his or her order. Being able to order whatever is needed from a tablet at Starbucks and having it delivered to the table is the ideal situation for a lot of people, especially the much-sought Millennial demographic.