business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Atlantic has a story that connects Nordstrom’s announcement that is is testing a new concept called Nordstrom Local, which will offer a wide variety of services but won’t stock any merchandise, to Apple’s comment this week that the company now refers to its stores as “town squares,” saying that in these retail units, “aisles will be ‘avenues’ and trees will provide customers shade from overhead fluorescents. The company dreams its flagship stores will become ‘gathering places,’ complete with classes on coding, music, and photography.”

There is a philosophical and strategic connection, the story says: “Retailers are, very consciously, promoting these in-store ‘experiences’ - or at least, they are doing so at the flagship stores in big cities that they like to draw attention to. It’s a reaction to the fact that buying is now something that can be done anywhere, and that reaction can be detected in a linguistic shift.”

It isn’t exactly a new conceit - the earliest shopping malls were designed with town squares in mind - and the stores that do this may have to be concerned that in the long run, if every store were to follow this approach, it will become commoditized.

But the point is that at least in certain markets, and usually appealing to higher end consumers, savvy retailers understand that they have to do anything they can to do-commoditize the shopping experience and create environments that cannot be replicated online.

They’re at least moving forward with their Eyes Open, with the fundamental understanding that success is achieved in the areas where they are different, not the same.
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