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Retail Re:Play

Today’s leading retailers know that Millennials and their kids see retail environments as places for entertainment, with shopping on the side.


“If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something, and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse, boom.” - Paco Underhill

ONE TREND: Retail Re:Play

Almost a month before school begins, most parents of school-aged kids around the U.S. start shopping (86% according to a recent Back-to-School Shopping study conducted by Digsite). And at no time of the year is it more apparent that bricks and mortar spaces need to actively invite, earn and inspire the kind of shopping traffic that they could once assume. Today’s parents are likely to receive their child’s list of required school supplies via email or an online community space. They can click on a link to the specific box of Crayola crayons that fulfills their teacher’s fondest dreams for classroom cleanliness and competence. And they can price compare. Instead of taking a day to drive and linger in a mass or specialty store, they can eek out one more day or hour by the pool.

But that’s not what happens. Well, not exactly. Sure, pre-shopping happens. And parents’ use both apps and websites to tackle their to-dos and peruse prices.  But they also take part in what Digsite refers to as parents’ “annual ritual” of heading to spaces where they can “bond” and “prepare” for the year. Simply put, shopping is as much about the experience as it is about the product purchased or shelves where they’re sold.

And this desire to turn shopping with and for children into a family experience is not isolated to this one time slot per year, although it’s sometimes thought to be. Speed and convenience should never be underestimated as drivers of, or more likely, deterrents of parents’ behavior. A store that complicates any part of the process without an accompanying and understood benefit simply won’t make the grade during the back to school period. At the same time, a brand that offers a retail experience can sway parents to forego the ease of online shopping, or even the convenience of the closest mass marketer.

Barnes and Noble might seem like an obsolete brand – easily beaten by Amazon’s online store. But, like Starbucks, Barnes and Noble’s summer programming gave families with kids a reason to visit (we’ll talk about brands like these at the YMS Voxburner conference in September). In the span of a few weeks, events included a Pokemon game day, a Marvel “meet the heroes” evening, and a Harry Potter launch party. The Lowe’s Build and Grow program (which Strottman is proud to operate) turns a trip to the “hardware store” into a full family-friendly building clinic on Saturday mornings.  (We’ll say more about Lowe’s at October’s Gen Z and M2Moms Conference). Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabrics have operated kid clinics for a few years running, transforming their reputation from supply stores to crafting “clubs.” These retailers realize that their physical space provides a unique opportunity to tap into customers’ need for more than just a shopping spot, but rather a place where customers can play. And why does that matter? As Paco Underhill is oft-quoted as saying “The Apple Store is not a store. It’s an exercise in brand evangelism.” And there’s no customer who is more invested in making the shopping experience great than families shopping with kids.

ONE BRAND: Suppa Kids Sneaker Boutique

We can’t think about back to school without thinking about shiny new school shoes. In Stuttgart, Germany, the Suppa Kids Sneaker Boutique makes this item even more exciting to get for school with a fun shopping experience. The store space is designed “with a playful perspective, utilizing simple wood panels with a geometric theme, punctuated by hits of color throughout.” And if the colorful, unique space doesn’t catch your eye, the interactive shelving will definitely pull in kids while mom picks out the right sneaker.

ONE FACT: $27.3 billion

Amount the National Retail Federation estimates will be spent on back-to-school supplies in 2016. 2 in 3 parents report being likely to buy more than what’s required by a school list.