The future of brick-and-mortar retailing may look troubled, but physical stores still account for the majority of transactions. A new generation of companies, including SHOWFIELDS and AREA15, are working to redefine the shopping experience — with a heavy emphasis on the experience.
“Our belief is that retail is not dead, but that it must be completely reimagined from the ground up,” said Dan Pelson, COO of AREA15 during a session at NRF 2020. “A big part of that is storytelling, authenticity and completely rethinking how you connect with your customer.”
AREA15 in Las Vegas bills itself as more than another retail space. The company is seeking to create a destination that’s a world all its own. Rather than adding experiences to a retail space, the space gives its restaurants, stores and entertainment options the same level of attention in order to create a cohesive whole.
“It’s really a 200,000-square-foot purpose-built destination squarely focused on the intersection/convergence of retail culture, music, great food and beverage experiences and events,” said Pelson. “It’s all about creating a destination that will make people get up off their couches, put their phones in their pockets and come on down.”
However, this completely reimagined vision of retail remains connected to traditional brick-and-mortar: “All the things that applied 100 years ago still apply today,” according to Pelson. Physical locations still exist to form a connection between the shopper, the retailer and its brands. AREA15 is just changing how those connections are formed to better match the needs of the modern consumer.
SHOWFIELDS Succeeds With A Little Help From Its Brands
The inspiration behind SHOWFIELDS, located in downtown New York City, was a matter of accessibility: putting up a web site has a relatively low barrier to entry, while opening a physical store is difficult for a newly minted entrepreneur. The hurdles are high enough that even successful pure-plays hesitate to open stores, even when shoppers would benefit from being able to see, touch or listen to its products.
“What SHOWFIELDS is designed to do is basically very simple: it’s to allow the rest of the world to have that physical touch,” said Tal Zvi Nathanel, CEO and Co-Founder of SHOWFIELDS. “We looked at both physical and digital, and we made owning a store as easy as opening a web site, and so we are able to enable physical retail for those brands. As a result, we have the most interesting store in the world — we are just setting the stage for these amazing, magical, wonderful brands.”
However, SHOWFIELDS doesn’t stop at picking interesting brands, giving them space and leaving them alone — it has designed its store to help them thrive, and to make every visit more than a shopping trip. The retailer’s name is derived from the two main elements that help these brands stand out: the Show and the Field.
The Show gives people a reason to stop by again and again, through a rotating series of events that include art installations and literal shows at an in-store theater that combine retail, design and performance art. This gives retailers a chance to show off their creative side while adding an experiential side to brick-and-mortar retail.
The Field is the dedicated retail space, where SHOWFIELDS “reverse engineered what makes retail hard,” according to Nathanel. The brands work out most of their design digitally, and SHOWFIELDS uses its expertise to make their plans a reality. This process has attracted newcomers and storied brands alike — even Nestlé has showcased products at the store.
Ultimately, both brands are taking somewhat different routes to reach the same end: creating bonds between shoppers and brands in an increasingly disconnected world. AREA15 and SHOWFIELDS both offered interconnected experiences that put retail, entertainment, brands and shoppers on an equal footing.
“We live in a world that’s highly focused on utility and hyper-convenience, and what we’re bringing to the world, and SHOWFIELDS is bringing to the world, is the other side of that,” said Pelson. “We’re creating a tangible experience and the ability to present things to consumers, to humans, that can connect with them.”