With all the online shopping options available these days, retail stores are forced to come up with creative ways to attract customers. While offering great products— and even greater customer service—is still important, retail brands must turn their stores into more than just a place to buy something if they want to increase their foot traffic and sales.
According to an article on Second to None, many academic studies indicate two factors that are largely responsible for retail success:
- The amount of time shoppers spend in the store
- The extent of interaction with the store personnel and merchandise
That means that a retailers’ success today isn’t so much what they sell, but how they sell it. Creating opportunities for shopper interaction is key. But how is this accomplished?
3 Ways to Become a Destination Store That Drives Sales
In the midst of consumers’ shift to online shopping, many brands have managed to position themselves as experiential retailers—they’ve moved away from transaction-focused methods and turned to immersive customer experiences. This has transformed stores into destinations, giving shoppers a motive to leave their home in an era when they have fewer reasons to do so.
Here are three ways one outdoor specialty retailer is making it happen:
1. It’s Adapting to What the Customer Wants
The Toggery hasn’t been in business for over 72 years by sticking to convention. Originally opened in 1947 as Frank’s Shirt Shop, the store sold menswear—suits, shirts, ties, etc.—to the men of Whitefish, Montana. Through the years, it evolved to fit the needs of the growing community. Frank’s son, Gary Stephens, introduced women’s clothing and footwear. After the current owner, Trek Stephens (Gary’s son), attended his first Outdoor Retailer in 2004, he revamped the business again.
Taking note that locals weren’t buying the suits and ties or dressing up, Trek reduced his dress-wear inventory and brought in more active lifestyle merchandise. Today, stylish jumpsuits and sundresses are paired with Chaco’s newest styles and flannels are complemented by handcrafted BEDSTU boots.
Attending Outdoor Retailer and fashion trade shows (like Magic and LA Market) helps Trek and his wife, Rene, keep a pulse on what’s trending, so shoppers can just as easily find brands like Free People on the store’s racks as Marmot or KÜHL.
According to the brand’s website, The Toggery prides itself on offering well-known brands that serve a function without sacrificing style. That means shoppers can find outfits, shoes, and accessories that will take them from the mountains to the barbecue.
Knowing its audience helps The Toggery invest in products with the potential for high returns while avoiding areas where it’s efforts would be irrelevant.
2. It Seeks to Stand Out From Other Retailers
The Toggery features weathered brick walls, hardwood floors, and naked lightbulbs strung across the ceiling. Technical pieces such as a retro wood sign, a metal chair holding jeans, and a retro stoplight are intermingled with the most recent trends, helping to give off a down-to-earth, yet contemporary store vibe.
Rene Stephens, co-owner of The Toggery, says the design differentiates their store from other outdoor specialty retailers:
“Being a brick-and-mortar store in a resort town, you have to be different,” she said. “I don’t want people to walk in my store and think it looks like every other store.” ~ SNEWS
3. It Offers Personalized Styling Services
If shoppers don’t know what to make of the waxed canvas and unfamiliar accessories next to the plaids and jeans, The Toggery is there to ensure that they don’t get lost in the purchase process by providing free style consultations.
Customers simply need to fill out a form (found on The Toggery’s website)—listing size and style preferences—and choose a time to come into the store before or after hours. They get the store to themselves, along with someone to help them select clothes.
“It takes a lot of time to go through all the clothes,” says Rene Stephens. “There is such a diverse mix, you can dial in what you’re looking for.”
With more than 70 years of retail experience, the Stephens have learned that customers with unique body types are very appreciative of personalized help finding gear and clothing that fits properly. The service allows them to capture a broader customer base because people don’t feel that they have to fit into a particular size range to shop at The Toggery.
As an outdoor lifestyle shop, The Toggery is committed to the happiness of each individual customer, which is evident in their attentive style consultations where they aim to make sure everyone can find the gear that fits and functions for them personally.
“Because that’s what everybody wants,” says Rene Stephens. “A personalized experience.”
While online shopping poses formidable threats to the survival of brick-and-mortar stores, the solution is less about competing, and more about differentiating.
Stores like The Toggery are evolving with consumers needs, differentiating themselves from competitors and providing customers with personalized services. They’ve realized that in-store shopping today is only partly about the product.
Instead, they try to follow this insightful advice from Ken Nisch, Chairman of JGA, a firm that designs retail spaces, “Give people a reason to be there, and they will shop. But shopping can’t be the reason to be there.”
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Also published on Medium.