Who might be interested in physical store space? Perhaps a new breed of online-native retailers. Take Frank & Oak, a Montreal-based online menswear "club" that is already experimenting with expanding into brick and mortar as a marketing vessel.
It’s as much (or maybe more) about branding as moving units. "The store of tomorrow is less about being transactional and more about the experience and ability to use the store as a media platform," says Ethan Song, Frank & Oak’s cofounder and CEO. "More important than the transactions we make is the idea of creating a sense of place and a feeling of community when a consumer steps into our stores. Allowing people to experience the brand firsthand and in person allows this sense of community to flourish. Incorporating things like social gatherings and coffee shops in our stores underlines our commitment to building not just a store, but a place people want to be."
GROCERS WILL FOCUS ON CREATING NEW EXPERIENCES, TOO
Eataly is difficult to describe. My colleague Austin Carr called the New York branch a "50,000-square-foot Italian grocery market-cum-restaurant emporium-cum-enoteca slash bakery slash cheese shop," which is about as concise as it gets when describing the Mario Batali-backed food mecca.
And it’s an experience that Eataly CEO Nicola Farinetti says can be duplicated nearly anywhere, even in cities without the density of a New York or San Francisco. "What was indeed perceived as a very advanced concept when it was first created, to us is a traditional layout modeled after every little Italian town, in which you have your trusted butcher, fishmonger, baker, pizzaiolo, barista, and gelataio," he says. It’s about telling stories and delighting urbanites with old-world charm—not unlike the extravagant Las Vegas casinos of the '90s.
"Our Eatalys in Italy are not always as big as the ones we have in the States, or in other Italian cities like Torino, Roma, or Milano," says Farinetti. "However, they still work very well for us. This demonstrates that we don't necessarily need a huge space to tell the stories behind the products we sell, and grab people's attention and curiosity in doing so."