In 1964 Phil Knight started selling shoes from the trunk of his car at local track meets. Each sale was to an individual. Each individual had a chance to engage with the man behind the brand, to hold the shoes in their hands, to ask questions and to transact right there in the parking lot…
…The parking lot level sets the playing field between large incumbents and scrappy startups. Neither can fake it when barriers to interaction and transaction are removed. This is more than a twitter account, a company blog or a trouble ticketing system. This is building durable communities of empowered employees and committed customers.
Grab your spot. Pop the trunk. Let’s go.
People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they’re willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships and trying to make people’s lives better.
Even though that may not be the experience one has in the Apple Store 100% of the time, it’s a fundamentally different approach to building a retail store. Even though the end goal was the same (sell more stuff), the principle was quite unique. It’s the same way Steve Jobs approached the iPhone:
“He didn’t ask, ‘How do we build a phone that can achieve a two percent market share?’ He asked, ‘How do we reinvent the telephone?’”
The Blended Model
I love the Saturdays Surf NYC shop, even though I’ve only visited once. They’ve done an incredible job of transitioning their superior taste and curated community into the destination for surfers in NYC, and more than that, they’ve created a real brand around it. This mixed model of community, retail, brand and tastemaker is very interesting. I suspect Partners & Spade is sort of after this same thing (though with advertising and fashion, not surfing), but I don’t know enough about them…either way, it seems to be an underserved trend. Leveraging the physical location into one-part store, one-part hangout, one-part community and one-part brand advertisement is quite brilliant, and it’s so well executed. I think more small brands should employ this model, starting small and local, and building out from there, using the people and places and events around them to build up both a following and credibility. If your shop sells boards, sell them the best boards, but also sell your own line of surfwear, and then go do a collaboration with a big brand (J.Crew) whose customers like to pretend they surf. If you sell surfing gear, host premiers for surf movies, meetups, and outings. I imagine they do all that, and if they don’t they should. Build a brand around the activities you serve and enhance, and go from there. It doesn’t hurt to have a kickass design aesthetic too.
We’ve been coming up with ideas for window displays all day. If only we were as creative as the folks at Anthropologie…
It’s actually a pretty difficult task to come up with a cheap, easy-to-install, plug and play solution that’s still 1) eye-catching, and 2) displays our products and our brand in the proper way. Especially us being so new to the party, we’ve got to accomplish a lot with very little. I guess we kinda have to do that all the time though…