It’s a tough time for brick and mortar retailers. It’s no secret that Millennials are increasingly skipping trips to the store to make their purchases online, and now some retailers are fighting back with innovative in-person experiences.
Though Millennials still prefer to shop for many things in person—76% would prefer to shop for casual clothing in-store, and 57% would prefer to shop for home accessories in-store—convenience, among other factors, has clearly been shifting them away from stores and into online shopping. Some categories are already decidedly online purchases in their minds: 61% would prefer to shop for electronics online. At the same time, 51% say they would rather make an inexpensive purchase online than in-store, which indicates that even more retail categories could shift over to online buying for the generation.
While older Millennials remember the heyday of brick-and-mortar shopping, younger Millennials are growing up in a time when a trip to the mall seems almost retro. In fact, galleries of images of “dead malls” are objects of fascination online, and dead mall Facebook groups even exist to chart the rise in abandoned (post-apocalyptic looking) malls across the country. The next generation will have even less of a connection to the idea of shopping as an in-person event.
It makes sense that retailers would attempt to lure in the generation known for craving experiences by making in-store visits more unique and by adding new elements beyond the racks and registers. Lately, some brick-and-mortar locations have been thinking outside the box to draw young consumers into stores. In March, Uniqlo—which is planning a major U.S. expansion and is already aiming to stand out to Millennials by being “the anti-fast fashion” chain—transformed the second floor of their New York flagship into a concept they’re calling SPRZ NY (Surprise New York). The gallery-like space features products made in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art—each item corresponds with a piece of art in the museums collections, with a dedicated micro-site providing a lesson on the art and artist. SPRZ also includes an in-store Starbucks, making them the first specialty retailer to include the coffee giant chain in a location.
Uniqlo is not the only retailer amping up the brick-and-mortar experience with added bells, whistles, and dining options. Urban Outfitters recently launched a concept store in Williamsburg Brooklyn called Space Ninety 8 to create a more local and unique shopping location that offers more than your average Urban products. The retailer has been losing ground with Millennials and Space Ninety 8 is a clear effort to charm the generation. The location is a five-floor warehouse, with each floor dedicated to a unique retail approach. The first floor, Market Space, is completely dedicated to local designers, other floors include music-dedicated areas that sell records, record players, and books, a bar and the restaurant The Gorbals live on the upper floors, and the rooftop is dedicated to open seating and a view of the Manhattan Skyline.
But will creative brick and mortar approaches be enough to draw them in? While we’ll likely never return to the halcyon days of mall culture, it’s possible that these collaborations between retailers and creative enterprises will bring Millennials into stores. However, until more Millennials are on steady financial ground, they might be more interested in price tags than experiential retail. When we asked the importance of various factors when deciding where to shop in-store, 80% named low prices.