I was talking with a colleague in the hotel industry last night who was mentioning the plethora of new hotels that are opening which are one-off concepts. Meaning, the hotel is more of a boutique hotel, it’s a one-of-a-kind concept, it feels more like a small gem that’s been created, then discovered by its guests.
Although it’s way to early to tell, I do believe that we, as Americans are going to get back to basics over the next few years.
We’re going to see the rebirth of small-town America (and I mean that in a good way) in the coming years — in essence, we’re going to see a strong push toward revitalizing our communities, creating gathering places and meeting places so people can connect and reconnect. Places like a coffee shop, a beauty salon, a pub, and even a town square or Main Street are going to be the focal points. We’re going to ban buildings that alter the landscape because they might be four stories tall in a downtown that only has two story buildings. We’re creating more green space. We’re bringing culture back on a local level in the form of community playhouses.
For retailers, that means we’re going to eschew chain concepts in favor of locally owned and operated ventures. We’re still going to go to Wal-Mart and Target for the bargain, but we’re going to head to local stores and restaurants that help ground us in our communities.
We’re all looking for a sense of place in this new America, and retailers and small business owners can help create that place.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Dig deep. Find the need. Then fulfill it.
Every time I shop at a chain store, I find the experience lacking. And that’s because chain stores have to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to be successful, thereby creating mediocrity.
For example, home stores everywhere have a plethora of merchandise, from dishes to furniture to vases, throw rugs to placemats, muffin pans to candles. And that includes retailers from Crate and Barrel to ZGallerie. It’s too much.
A sense of place doesn’t really exist when you enter these stores. They certainly serve a market, and a big one at that. But they represent the homogenization of America at a time when we want to express our individualism.
Take a look at a great little store here in LA called Zelen. The store is gorgeous. The merchandise eclectic. And there’s a story behind every piece of merchandise they sell (and they’re happy to share those stories with you). So you walk away with a one-of-a-kind piece that reflects you – you as an individual.
These are the types of experiences that create great retail concepts. They’re what Americans are longing for. Create a concept like this and you’re ultimately going to win, simply because you’re filling a need that the chains can’t possibly fill. The need to feel unique. The need to feel like Main Street. The need to feel grounded in and supportive of your community.