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If modern buyers can get everything they need, delivered to their door quickly and efficiently, without having to leave home, what’s to prompt them to visit stores? This question, and its answers, appear to underlie some of the latest experiments by creative retailers that encourage consumers to embrace the beauty of “slow shopping.”

OJO-pe0058797-SRather than prioritizing efficiency, speed, or moving customers through their stores, these retailers provide inducements for shoppers to linger, spend time leisurely making their way around the store, and test various product options. For example, dozens of Origins stores now feature sinks in stores, with open jars of the brand’s skin care products awaiting next to them. Consumers can lather up with the various options, determining which scent they like best or which version feels nicest on their skin. The ingredients to the products are featured in jars displayed on nearby shelves. Although no one can purchase the displayed ginger or mushrooms, they provide insights into what goes in to the products that customers are playing with in the sinks.

Other retailers devote considerable, and valuable, square footage to such non-revenue–inducing offerings such as libraries, performance spaces, expansive seating, and selfie walls. Rather than packing more products into a space, these retailers consciously are reducing the number of products available in stores, in the hope that the in-store experience will be so appealing that more customers will visit and spend more time there.

In support of this rationale, research studies consistently show that the more time people spend in a store, the more they buy. In the past, high-end department stores embodied this concept, providing fancy restaurants and tea rooms that allowed shoppers to take a break halfway through an all-day visit to the stores. Even local drugstores encouraged people to linger, offering soda fountains or lunch counters.

Modern anecdotal evidence affirms the idea too. When Club Monaco added non-retail offerings to its various stores, with locally specific offerings (e.g., a whiskey bar in London, a farmer’s market in Hong Kong) and décor, shoppers started asking sales clerks if the apparel company provided home decorating services too. They also started buying the furniture and artwork on display. In turn, the retailer has initiated a renewed concept of inventory rotation, such that its in-store decorations change every few months, depending on what shoppers have purchased.

The appealing in-store experience also can attract people who have never shopped with the brand before. Urban Outfitters thus hosts concerts to get music fans in its shops. By setting up a lunch counter, Restoration Hardware attracted one Chicago-area shopper who had never been there before, but needed a quick bite during the work day. Instead, she lingered in the store and purchased several towel sets and rugs that she normally would have bought online.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What is “slow shopping?”
  2. Is this strategy new to retailing?
  3. Why are more retailers implementing “slow shopping” strategies?
  4. Under what circumstances or for which product categories do you prefer “slow shopping” to “fast and convenient” shopping?

Source: Ellen Byron, “The Slower You Shop, The More You Spend,” The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2015; Tom Ryan, “Should Retailers Slow Down Shopping?” Retail Wire, October 30, 2015