What is going on with retail store experiences? Seemingly overnight, retailers have embraced a version of Americana that takes everything that is tangible and globs into one big amorphous feel good, relevant category that emotionally connects with customers.
Ralph Lauren’s RRL (Double RL) concept is set in an old gas station, complete with rollup doors, an old spotlight, and various other wood and metal accoutrements, from the fixtures to all the visual elements. Not for the faint of heart, you’ll pay dearly for the xperience, having to shell out $100s for most items. But man, that store experience is beyond gorgeous. It’s authentic. It has a soul. And it takes you right back to the old west.
4Ever’s store is set on a corner right near RRL. Chipped paint white fixtures, giant black and white imagery of yesteryear, old liquor bottles, colored seltzer bottles and more round out the experience.
And The Same Guy has a raw wood clapboard feel, replete with old leather couches (one’s emblazoned with an “painted” and worn American flag. Old punching bags, barbells, footballs and baseballs, all in leather lend to this sports motif of yesterday. This manufacturer and purveyor of basics like t-shirts, henleys and more has struck a chord with its unique environment that lends authenticity to its products.
And that’s the key — it’s about authenticity! In a time when we’re suffering from our economic hangover, we’re all about wanting things that a bit more real, a bit more tangible, a little less over-produced. We see it the dearth of singer/songwriters in the Top 10 on American Idol, in the slow food movement and the rebirth of the sandwich shop (granted a million versions of aioli have replaced mayo), even slow-cookers are back in vogue (we called it Crock Pot crap growing up but I long for those meals today). And clothing is the biggie – flannel, cotton and so many natural fabrics, colors that are a bit more toned down, clothes that harken back to a time when clothes were a bit more utilitarian (today’s fashion is still all about fashion, it just has a nod to yesteryear.
So, the question is how you’re making your experience more authentic. How are you connecting emotionally with your customers? How are you creating an environment that has a soul? And most importantly, how are you telling that story?
Authenticity isn’t going away. We’ve only just begun to focus on it. And that’s the beauty of a trend. It’s time to hop on board before the train leaves the station – that way you’ll actually be the trendsetting engineer in your retail neighborhood versus just a passenger along for the ride.
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