Last year many big box stores shut down. Sears, Bowring and Bombay, all called it quits, despite having strong brands that seemed to have survived for decades. It looked like it was the beginning of the demise of the retail industry (at least for the brick and mortar stores).
But, the grass seemed to be greener on the other side. Online retailers like Amazon, announced that they are on course to open a brick and mortar store this year. What would propel a successful online retailer to venture into a space that seems doomed to fail? Have they perhaps tapped into a consumer insight that others haven’t?
What’s crystal clear, is that these days brands can’t get too comfortable. Long gone are the days that brand loyalty alone would sustain a brand. When you pair the abundant array of options with the power of suggestion on social media, a brand can go from super cool one day, to being viewed as yesterday’s coffee the next.
This year, Staples Canada launched their “experience” concept store in downtown Toronto, on 375 University Avenue. An unusual decision when compared to their competitor, Grand & Toy (owned by Office Depot in the U.S.), who only a few years prior had closed all their brick and mortar locations to focus mainly on B2B online.
How the two office supplies stores will continue to gain momentum is still to be seen, but this new store is a first of its kind for Staples. Modelled under a similar idea that Chapters Indigo and The Bay downtown flagship store have used, Staples has curated the customer experience giving space and prominence to desired brands. At the Hudson’s Bay, there are boutique shops that feature names like Dior, Prada and Louis Vuitton.
In the Staples store, brands like Moleskine and Bose have a distinct presence with dedicated shelf space and signage. As you shop around the store, there are many tables that feature merchandise like you’d expect to find in a home decor store. A likeness to the kind of merchandise carried in a Muji store is clear. Gone are the days when Staples just carried office chairs.
So, what is it that other retailers are missing? Recent studies suggest that even with the surge of online shopping, shoppers love to visit an actual store location before they buy online. And that may just be the secret ingredient for the sustainability of a brand.