By Alison Embrey Medina, Executive Editor
August 12, 2012
It is no secret that traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers are waging a constant war against today’s hardest-won opponent: the lazy consumer. The lazy consumer opts to buy shoes from her laptop on the sofa when she realizes her daylong walk in heels has produced a massive blister. She buys diapers from her phone in the baby’s nursery when she realizes she has only three left in the entire house. And she certainly orders dog food from the kitchen pantry the second she realizes poor Harry doesn’t have enough food left to get him through the week.
Here’s the rub. The lazy consumer is me. And you. And the majority of your customers today. There are moments when I can spend hours in a store that I love, soaking in the product, the aisles—the experience. Still walking dreamily in the retail world as it used to be. And there are times when necessity prevails, and the time-starved life of a working mother takes over. Sometimes, I let the lazy consumer win. I have to, for sanity’s sake.
The only thing worse than the lazy consumer is the lazy retailer. The lazy retailer continues selling wares in the exact same way it sold them in 1986, because that’s how wares are supposed to be sold. It lets the lazy consumer forget about them. Lets its parking lots sit empty, and its shelves remain overstocked. The lazy retailer blames the lazy consumer for its misfortune—but we all know that in today’s world, it’s quite the opposite.
A July article in The New York Times—“Malls’ New Pitch: Come for the Experience”—spotlighted mall developer Glimcher Realty Trust in its quest to reinvent the experiential side of its Scottsdale Quarter property in Scottsdale, Ariz. At Scottsdale Quarter, you will find your typical retail stores, but you also will find laser salons, hairstyling lessons, pottery-making venues, yoga classes and even a denim store called Industrie Denim that allows women to study their backsides via a “booty cam” while trying on jeans. The goal is to “Internet-proof” the mall by differentiating the offer via experience.
While a Scottsdale shopper can buy clothes on the Web, “she can’t go out to lunch with her girlfriends and have a glass of wine and a salad online,” Michael P. Glimcher, Glimcher Realty’s chairman and CEO, said in the article. “She can’t get her hair done online. She can’t go and make pottery or soap or a cake online.”
At the end of the day, it all comes down to experience—frankly, it has to. Necessity is no longer a valid justification of bricks-and-mortar retail’s survival. You can order groceries, dinner, a movie, a car, a bed, a house, a date—even a wife, in some countries—online today.
But you can’t taste a fine wine on a website, or test the weight and length of a magic wand perfectly proportioned for your hand—as retailers in this issue offer in their bricks-and-mortar stores. As Total Wine & More (page 30) and the Harry Potter Studio Tour (page 24) prove in this issue, experience is still everything. Both would get this lazy consumer off the couch.