- Doing the grocery shop has become quite an experience, says Sally-Jayne Wright. Be prepared for anything from yoga classes to supper clubs
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To compete with online shopping, multiples and indies alike are having to try harder. Earlier this year, Waitrose trialled yoga classes at a handful of branches. Paid-for tastings of Plymouth and Japanese gin followed and as we go to press, Waitrose is planning pop-up supper clubs run by amateur cooks at 50 in-store cafés. Sainsbury’s experimented with the first UK supermarket ice cream parlours at five branches this summer.
At Eteaket, a specialist tea store for Edinburgh hipsters, there are monthly wellness talks. At a typical event, a chiropractor advises on how to look after your spine while customers sip green, black and peppermint teas and are shown hot and cold brewing techniques.
HOLD ON. COULD YOU EXPLAIN THE WORD RETAIL-TAINMENT?
The use of sound, ambience, emotion and activity to get shoppers in the mood to buy. A US sociologist called George Ritzer invented the word in a grandly titled 1999 book called Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption.
WHAT MIGHT THIS RETAIL-TAINMENT BE?
Tastings, supper clubs, street food, markets, festivals, talks, even date night sushi-making classes for couples.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE TREND?
Shopping has become divided into ‘chores’, on the one hand, and ‘cherish’ – socialising and discovery – on the other. We order spare parts and dishwasher tabs online because it’s easy. In real life we want to meet new people, learn skills and make new memories. ‘People will still make their way to physical stores, because they want to get experiences that they won’t find anywhere else,’ predicts Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend, an international retail software company.
Eataly, a giant food hall cum new age education centre in Asia, Europe and the Americas, is a prime example of how to turn shopping into experience. At its Bologna store, as well as numerous pop-up food and kitchenware shops, it has sports and play areas, a cinema, farm animals and vegetable plots.
ANY TIPS ON PUTTING ON AN EXPERIENCE?
Consider what your target customer will enjoy and appeal to all five senses. Fudge Kitchen is a chain of seven confectionery stores selling slab fudge made from fresh whipping cream. The pouring and shaping of the molten fudge is highly watchable and demonstrators chat up the audience and encourage samplings. Customers can also take selfies of themselves learning the process.
Music creates mood, and comparative tastings enhance appreciation. Could your bread supplier teach shoppers why slow-fermented sourdough is better than supermarket-bought?
Don’t forget aroma. A chain of travel agents pumped out the smell of coconut sun tan lotion to put customers in a holiday mood. Can you get tastebuds salivating with the aroma of fresh ground coffee and cinnamon buns?
WE’VE HARDLY ROOM TO SERVE PEOPLE, LET ALONE PUT ON A SHOW. ANY IDEAS?
How about taking the show to the customers? The annual Glyndebourne opera festival takes place in east Sussex from May to August. Most festival goers share picnics on the lawns. This gave TV presenter, Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall, and his team the idea of setting up a River Cottage-branded pop-up deli in the grounds.
They set up shop in an adapted shipping container and offered two seasonal picnic menus. Opera-lovers could buy their whole supper from River Cottage or top it up with bread, brownies, flapjacks and salads.
WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT REACHING THE KIND OF CUSTOMERS YOU WANT?
“Think outside the box” advises Giovanna Eusebi, whose Italian deli had been struggling along in Glasgow’s East End for decades. To introduce her brand to a more affluent demographic, she took over an empty shop in Princes Square – a more upmarket end of town – for a three-week, December pop-up. Her budget was tiny so she shared rental and databases with a candle-making company and paid a music school student to play carols to set the scene.
She also taught Glasgow College students how to make real ricotta, used deli products to cook at a street food stall and hosted tastings of regional Italian wines. Creativity and passion paid off because today she has a West End restaurant and deli and the original site is her bakery.
THIS ALL SOUNDS FABULOUS, BUT I’M SOOO BUSY…
You don’t have to go it alone. To offer supper clubs, Waitrose teamed up with an online platform which links amateur dinner party cooks with potential guests. Could you co-host an event with a supplier, catering college, restaurant, celebrity chef or street food stall? Speak to your chamber of commerce and research food festivals.
THE 64 MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: WHAT WILL EXPERIENCES DO FOR SALES?
Retail-tainment is about profile, not hard sell. It’s a success if: more people know about you; you increase your database; gather feedback on your products; and convert occasional customers into regulars.
IS THIS TREND HERE TO STAY?
Absolutely. Humans are sociable animals and high tech needs high touch. Numerous surveys have shown that millennials value memories and experiences over material goods. So it’s just a matter of creating the right experiences. Be bold.