Let’s continue the conversation about the store of the tomorrow. Which we must be planning and implementing today.
About ten minutes away and down the hill is a retail site in the midst of transformation.
It’s at the intersection of two major high-traffic urban thoroughfares. Reasonable parking in front. With a tasty catchment area of hipster Millennials in nearby apartments and X- and boomer professionals in single-family dwellings.
At one time, it was the local—and successful—muffler and brakes automobile repair shop. Then shuttered. Then abandoned to graffiti and broken windows.
And now to be a combination laundromat, coffee shop, and performance area. All in one.
Seeing this come together got me thinking about the purpose of tomorrow’s store, and indeed, the opportunities for a retail brand to create profitable shopper affinity. The I-choose-this brand-without-thinking type of affinity that pays off in ever-higher shares of wallet and fatter margins.
There are a lot of variables that go into creating such affinity.
But one—and one that is perhaps far more important than any of us assume—is that of the shopper feeling part of a community. One that comes together in shared interests and shared values.
We’re in an era that is ripe for new community creation. As researchers and authors have pointed out for the past twenty years, membership and participation in existing professional and civic organizations—from unions to churches to parent-teacher associations to fraternal organizations to adult athletic leagues—is in a steady decline.
And not only in the U.S. Relatively recent (2016) research published in The Guardian showed a similar decline in the UK.
Which—given the social nature of humans—suggests not a lack of interest in community. Just that old forms of community are increasingly irrelevant.
Which leads us to the opportunity in retail. And for retail stores.
What are retail stores but the physical merchandising of shared interests and values?
Shared interests in cooking, which drive housewares and kitchen remodeling businesses. Shared interests in video gaming, which drive not only the sale of games and subscriptions but upper-end personal computers. Shared interests in fashion and design. Shared interests in healthy living and weight loss. Shared interests in happy children, and clean, well-organized homes.
The re-imagined space ten minutes away and down the hill is about to offer a gathering space for those who share interests in good coffee, live music, and new friendships – all while the washing machines spin and the dryers tumble.
Perhaps in today’s ideation about the stores of tomorrow, we need to be thinking about merchandising not only SKU’s but community.
Let me know what you think.