Over the last few weeks (and months?) I have been a bit down-beat about retailing. The failure of HMV, Jessops and Comet seems to have been a car-crash waiting to happen.
For retailers to survive they are going to have to offer much more than a point of sale. Unless they occupy an incredibly niche market. People want an ‘experience’, they want to feel loved. When you consider what Apple have done with their stores you realise just how far the experience route has gone. Steve Jobs famously wanted there to be an experience first and sale second.
In America one of my favourite shops is Bleeker Street records in New York. It sells vinyl, CDs and all manner of other medium. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else (no ipads here).
Last week I head about a similar place – Amoeba Records in LA. I never made it there went I visited LA (actually I couldn’t get away from the place quickly enough). But it looks brilliant. It isn’t Bleeker Street records – it’s huge.
Amoeba has three key principles – customer service, variety of stock and a ‘cool vibe’. By all accounts it has got this right. It seems to have the scale of a mega-store but the charm of an independent? 240 people work there – drawn from musicians, actors, DJ’s and artists. I guess they don’t treat it as a job – it’s a passion. They recommend stuff to you – and if you don’t like it you get a full-refund!
They have worked their customers out – and offer them a real service. Had HMV done this they might have survived?