The Touch of the Hand,
the Human Presence,
Retail Experience Design
When I work on a restaurant, I always ask about the chef: “is he, or she, planning on being there, being present, consistently?” That, alone is a compelling proposition to managing the spirit of a place, and designing it — for food, conviviality and sharing. The same question might be extended to retailers –
“will you, as the owner of the concept, be there?”
The point being, that the idea of selection — isn’t automatic, but rather guided, presuming that the retailer knows his goods. Even been in a bookstore and asked about a book only to be met with blank stares? Even been in a restaurant, asking about an item and being told, in response, “I don’t know, I’ve never tried it.” The point is to the alignment of retelling at retail, or telling — and selling — at food and beverage establishments, a detailed awareness of everything that is part of the experience.
Training counts, for one — but another might be passion. The core experience of retelling retail is one of knowing the story of the why, the how, the where.
The why — of the selection.
The how — made, provenance, character of the offering.
The where — from, offering, need and support.
There might be a joke to the notion of the endless babbling of shopkeepers extolling their wares or restauranteurs waxing poetically on the nature of their offerings. But still, importantly, there is passion — building new offerings, shifting items in response to sales and interests, evolving the layering and depth of the story told. The process of customer engagement is something that is emotional, a story is told, the customer connects, likes the story, engages [is enchanted] and makes the purchase.
More often that not, the power of retail retelling — retail, etymologically comes from tailoring — customizing the story for the guest, it needs to be tuned to the visitor, the guest will listen to a language that is relevant to their ears. So in a manner, a customized retelling syncs the retail leadership to making for a compelling relationship to the customer. Relationship, in a word origin, ties to relatus, the Latin for — “to relate to,” which inherently becomes “a relating, to carry.” The telling is about enchantment, as Guy Kawasaki enthusiastically proclaims.
Point is, be there.
There is something to the nature of J.C.Penney’s smaller retail / village concept — “one hundred shops are better than one.” And aside from their other challenges, the micro retail concept is gaining reception. Inherently, small retail, small shops, mom and pop shops are reviving the spirit of retelling retail, the reframing of the nature of supporting sales. The hands-on contact is regaining fluency — it’s a trend of curation and crafted product gathering that reflects and intimacy of connectivity, between the visioning of the founder, or the foundress, in extending that mission, which of course is the nature a promise. And great retail brand has a promise, a consistency of dream and offering that is held by a customer — and shared in the rippling of community with others.
We’ve written about this for the last half decade — and in 2008 talked in a closing keynote at the International Retail Summit, on just this theme.
There’s something original to this proposition, in a founding manner — it’s an ancient model of the marketplace. That touch-point — the customized storytelling of environment, speaks to curation and gathering of products that are detailed to the spirit of the founder — especially selected, changeable and malleable to whim, interest and vitalized trends.
Friend, Yaffa Assouline [See CityGuide] offers another collection of sorts, the best customized curatorial stores in her world, located at LuxuryCulture.com. The collection, here. We laud her exploratory.
In the Seattle area, there are retailers already engaged in this process of micro-retelling. We’ve talked to, for example, Nicole Miller of Blackbird, an experimenter in this process — one concept, nestled and nurtured on another, and another. She, along with friend and former client, Ken Mitchell have taken that idea of experiment and
nestling to another tier,
their new Aviary — a microshop off the main area of their men’s shop.
It’s Ken’s vision to explore designed products that re-engage guests in their own sensory and creative investigations.
Ken’s shop is tiny, but his generosity of time and sharing is robust and big-hearted, from showing off specially fabricated, hand-crafted Titanium containers, supremely modernist, yet wafting the visual fragrance of wabi sabi.
There are tools, and toys — for exploring the sensate, hand-touch[ing] objects — that Ken Mitchell extolls [below]
each of which has a story, a history, a recollection that might be wholly new, or spun in the fabric of memory, back in time.
Strange, powdery, gooey substances for modeling and molding — like dusty “play-doh,” yet modernly curiously fluent, pliable and unique [if not unheard of.]
Ken offers new tellings for offerings in documenting — from white-lined journals and note-keeping booklets, to lomographic cameras and old-age / new-age photography tools.
Tiny, yet it’s a playground. You might think that you’ve seen it all, but as an advanced product development and innovation expert, Ken’s out globally scouting more amazing things to boost creative development, inside and out.
Go forth, wander and wonder.
TSG | Girvin Island Studios | Decatur
G I R V I N | RETELLING RETAIL
DESIGNING THE STRATEGY OF SELLING :
BRAND STORYTELLING ENVIRONMENTS, EXPERIENCES = PLACES