I turned up at 7am at the Sheraton in Sydney, expecting maybe 50 bleary-eyed people milling around a coffee urn, hoping to do a bit of networking and maybe get a piece of rockmelon and a muffin.
Instead, the Grand Ballroom was filled with people and the mood was surprisingly buzzy for that time of morning. There were even three types of melon and baked goods aplenty! But the best thing were the speakers, Chris Beer from Luxottica, Jon Bird from Ideaworks (whose blog posts are always fascinating insights into the latest retail trends) and Howard Saunders from Echochamber.
Now, I'd never heard of Howard before last Friday but I am now quite the fan. His presentation was entertaining, informative, inspirational and, at times, crudely hilarious, and I could have watched and listened to him for another hour as he trawled through his happy snaps of amazing retail experiences around the world. From Milan, Barcelona and Tokyo to New York, Malibu and Shanghai, he showed us retail concepts that sent shivers down my spine. And by the way, did I mention I WANT HIS JOB!
You can find a lot of the stores and retail case studies that Howard & Jon talked about here.
For example, the gorgeous Anthropologie stores (above) where their aim is to create an 'experience' for the shopper, not just a departmentalised fitout so, right throughout the store, you'll find little corners full of 'collections' of fabulous items.
And how inviting does this fitout at James Perse in Malibu Cove look? Couldn't you just imagine curling up in one of those chairs with some fabulous tome from the wall behind? This was another retail trend - creating a small, intimate, special space for the customer. And, of course, never making them feel like they have to buy something to enjoy the space.
The other key trend is to display products like an art installation. Check out the Issey Miyake store in Tokyo, where the clothes are kind of 'held up' by these strange looking steel rods. How amazingly different and unusual!
I also love the trend of customisation, like in this Levi's Vintage store where you can select a jeans pattern from 1956 and have it custom made for you in the same kind of denim from back then.
Or the Little Miss Matched stores where little girls can be 'empowered' by selecting unique combinations of socks, or even design their own in-store!
It makes me wonder what Australian retailers are doing to create amazing experiences for their customers.Luxottica is at the forefront of these trends, creating an eyewear store that has a concierge to greet you at the door, a sports simulation room and, something close to my heart, a well-appointed, sectioned off children's play area. And do you know why they put the kids area in? Because their customers asked for it. Amazing what you can find out if you listen to your customers. Go Luxottica!
What are you doing in your store to create an 'experience' for your customers?
Child Friendly Solutions has been assisting Australian retailers with in-store play solutions for 10 years including Big W, K-Mart, Westpac, Toyota and Forty Winks. You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels, Play Tables and other play equipment, as well as lots of information on becoming a child friendly retailer, at www.childfriendly.com.au