Making the in-store experience as compelling as possible has always been a battle for many CE/imaging retailers, and the recession, that we are now hopefully creeping out of, has only made that quest an even tougher challenge.
Two recent trends worth keeping an eye on that can help address this challenge are the store-within-store concept and the implementation of modular retail systems.
In examining the former, look no further than the fact old-school retail staple Sears is currently making room (about 15% of the square footage its Costa Mesa, Calif., store) to house the much trendier retailer Forever 21. Add to this Target's recent commitment to have 1,450 Radio Shack-run mobile phone shops in its stores by the end of June. And as if that isn't proof enough the store-within-store concept is catching fire, Walmart Realty claims it has almost 400 in-store leases ready for some well-matched retailers who see the benefit of letting “Walmart's repeat customers become [their] repeat customers.”
The future of retail continues to change; so too does consumer perceptions of the experience they expect at the various retail locations they frequent.
“This kind of partnering with specialized retailers and manufacturers helps these guys fill holes in their product offerings and also aids greatly in taking advantage of hot trends more quickly,” explained New York-based retail analyst Lauren Sosik.
And, seeing as these “hot trends” is what gets shoppers back in their stores. That's an important aspect to focus on within this concept.
“Let's face it, retailers of all kinds are really struggling with figuring out exactly how they can create more compelling experiences that will help drive more in-store traffic,” added Seth Green, a New Jersey-based blogger on all things retail. “Offering that sense of uniqueness is what this is all about, and this store-within-a-store concept can really do that cleverly.”
CEA's Chief Economist and Director of Research, Shawn G. Dubravac, explains how the Apple model best illustrates how the concept first began and where it can potentially lead.
In the late 1990s, Apple's presence within major retailers began to change, ultimately transforming into the now familiar store-within-a-store model.
“This gradual transformation pulled Apple products together within the store. Instead of merchandizing Apple products within the category, where the products would sit next to similar devices, Apple products were increasingly merchandized next to other Apple products,” Dubravac explained. “The retail presence for Apple changed from an existence within categories to one of brand. As the Apple ecosystem of products expanded, so too did Apple's store-within-a-store presence.”
Putting Modular in Motion
If the store-within-a-store concept isn't in your immediate plans, a modular retail system might prove to be a more viable, less-complicated alternative.
At the core of modern retailing is the customer's desire to buy the latest thing, to change the old for the newest of new. Imagine how beneficial it might be if you're retail environment could change with your customers and their attitudes from season to season.
This thought is the inspiration behind Australia's Demodeks (http://www.demodeksshopfittings.com.au/) and their new Praestegaard Modular Retail System, just one of the many modular retail services on the market today.
Their most recent product in this category is based on modular frame units comprised of easy-to-change colored plates and a full range of fittings and accessories. They explain that the system enables store staff to easily change the look of the store in minutes. With this kind of flexibility comes the freedom to change a wall to promote a sale event, change an entire shop to the new season's colors, or relocate a whole department—all without involving any contractors or outside labor.
“Again, it's about maximizing the retail experience and making it memorable,” Sosik added. “Being able to do that easily and at an affordable cost is Holy Grail kind of stuff for retailers. These modular systems provide a nice alternative.”
Another company offering a slightly different spin on the modular front is Coppell, Texas-based Walls+Forms and their Shop-In-A-Box (http://www.wallsforms.com/shop-in-a-box) product. Again, a reusable, temporary, modular store that can be set up in an existing retail location or erected in any vacant space for an instant store-front at a variety of events.
“Anything that enhances the customer experience and the journey. And this flexibility is also important,” Greene said. “Being nimble is a big deal today and reacting swiftly to changes in consumer behavior and attitudes is key and these concepts speak to all of this.”