The Quirky Carousel – Business Model for the Next Generation
Do we really need physical storefronts anymore? At a time when it’s so much easier to head online to place an order for everything from pizza to pens to shoes, shirts, and sofas, under what circumstances do we absolutely have to leave home and stand in line at a store to make a purchase? Hey, I get my favorite pizza delivery by placing the order online and having it delivered by UberEATS – Awesome! Turns out, not as often as you might have guessed, as the recent bankruptcies and closures of The Limited, American Apparel, Wet Seal, Aeropostale and Pacific Sunwear can attest.
Now that technology has progressed enough to show how we can arrange entire rooms in our homes on-screen, what, exactly, do we need physical storefronts for? Amazon and its Prime delivery service has spoiled us with the convenience of placing an order online and receiving it at no additional shipping cost two days later. No longer just for books, you can set up an ongoing pantry subscription so that paper towels, diapers, and potato chips arrive on your doorstep just as you’re about to run out.
What is happening to the retail store? “Stores are no longer stores, they are distribution points for products,” says Ken Morris, principal, at Boston Retail Partners. And retailers like Restoration Hardware (RH) understand that. RH has showroom stores to provide inspiration and style guidance but “they’re not really selling anything there,” he says. “It’s like a giant 3D real-time catalog.”
The trick to surviving in the new convenience economy is competing on the service experience, says Morris, citing Apple stores as an example of a retailer that has done a good job of providing customers with an experience. They can try new products, ask questions of knowledgeable sales associates and learn how best to use them. “You go by an Apple store in any mall and they are always packed,” he points out.
Morris describes another success story in Mario Batali’s Eataly, the “theatre of shopping” in Boston’s Prudential Center. At Eataly, you can eat at one of three restaurants, shop for groceries, and learn how to cook all under one roof. It’s going to be critical for retailers to offer their customers more than just a shopping opportunity, but an experience.
The majority of brick-and-mortar stores have not embraced online, this is particularly prevalent amongst the so called “mom and pop” operations where the embracing of the technology needed to be successful in this arena is sorely lacking. There are many stories of retailers who have tried to launch a last ditch effort to move toward online, only to see both sides of the business fail. They have tried to take their stores and put them online and have left out the experience. They don’t quite understand how to engage with the customer like truly passionate entrepreneurs, like we at the Quirky Carousel, do in-store. We have to bring that to life online. The consumer needs the retailer to engage with them. We at the Quirky Carousel, have built our business from the ground up to be a primarily online business with a retail support location where our customers can still come to live the experience.
We will be striving to bring a new experience to vintage and antique shopping by being a reliable and trusted source of information on what makes an antique valuable, what is the design period and is my piece typical, what is the quality of its construction, how do I restore and maintain my treasure. Some of our recent blog articles available on our website and planned presentation on antique restoration and design period reviews will continue to offer our customers information for making the best informed decisions about their purchases.