The Passion Store
“The Department store is dead!”
was the somewhat controversial opening salvo as one founder of HMKM, Peter Kent, addressed the International Association of Department Stores in Paris at the turn of the century. The next slide, however, led with the brilliantly prescient statement:
“Long live the passion store.”
His point was as relevant then as it is today – lead from the heart, lead with emotion, curate with conviction and your customer will come.
At the start of the millennium (some) retailers lauded the major undertaking at Debenhams as they created a universal fixture and furniture system for their products across all departments, praising the cost savings, the ease of moving product and expanding and contracting departments. But my, how homogenous that store looked, how undistinguishable each department was, and how grey.
Where were the desires of the customer in that clever “fixture review” program?
Roll on 19 years and no doubt retail is tough. With customers able to buy online, through social media and in-store, the role and purpose of the store is completely challenged.
Customers can get anything, anytime, anywhere, and the whole dynamic of shopping has changed (even down to how we pay). Store estates are under review, closures manifold and the thorny challenge of investment in the main fleet, as opposed to the flagship, hasn’t gone away.
And yet that challenge becomes one of the most exciting opportunities. What’s unique about the in-store experience is that people want individual, emotionally rewarding experiences. We still love going shopping: the pure thrill of feeling and seeing a new collection, of “talking shop” with a real, breathing advocate of that product, of the purchase wrapped, bagged and bowed. That hasn’t changed. Indeed, one could argue that the desire for old-fashioned physical connection is returning with true vigor.
So, let’s seize this chance to re-define the purpose of the store. To attract that customer, you may have thought had gone cold or was out of your league. To create intrigue and desire. Suddenly that goose bump moment of “what if?” starts to percolate with an expectant energy.
I would say the name of the game is all about creating spaces that build relationships. What relationship – in this store – could I have with my customer? Is it the same one across all stores? The same as online? The same through social media? Can it exist outside of the traditional store?
Like any relationship, there is a difference between falling, and staying, in love. Therefore, what can I do differently to pique their interest? How can I demonstrate my commitment? What will be fun? How do I keep it fresh? How do I ensure it endures?
Renowned psychotherapist, Esther Perel, argues that in long-term relationships, “we expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. However, this draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So, how do you sustain desire?
Relationships and retail
How can retailers sustain the desire of their customers? Developing Esther Perel’s reflection, it should be through eloquence, wit, passion and a strong moral code:
Of products, ranges, collections, collaborations, sponsorship programs or fledgling-designer support, newness, pop-ups, art, music, events and drama.
The sheer joy and fun of sharing the product you have sourced with your customer, telling stories and making them part of the story.
An unshakeable, enduring desire; enthusiasm bordering on obsession, fire and love; hunger and happiness.
A strong moral code:
Knowing that trust is the foundation of the relationship. The absolute need to build trust in the quality, the provenance. That the “big things” matter. That you’re not going away.