Retailing with creative added value is not about traditional salesrooms but studios for ideas: in addition to offering the right products, retailers can help their customers to experience them in person with all of their senses. This turns a shop into a favourite haunt, a place where customers are eager to linger and develop their own creativity.
The DIY trend is still going strong. We’re making pottery, sewing, styling our homes and staging our garden parties with self-crafted table decorations. But we don’t all have enough space to explore our creativity within our own four walls. And, in any case, it’s simply more enjoyable to try things out around others of a like mind. This is where a retail space can come into its own, doubling up as a hands-on activity area – ideally all hours the store is open.
If you want to turn your specialist store into a DIY hangout, you need to focus on the workspace, rather than the products, when planning the design. For example, a large table placed at the heart of your store may encourage customers to be as creative as they please. Perhaps you also have a side room that customers could book as a temporary studio (in return for a contribution towards expenses). It might even be worth trialling this idea with a pop-up creative workshop in an empty retail space nearby before redesigning your own store.
A large, well-worn wooden table or a number of smaller tables, various chairs with an upcycled look, utensils hung over the table in baskets or on hooks from the ceiling and completed creations in a freestanding rack at the front of the table can provide a creative foundation. A design studio atmosphere is created with a white and anthracite palette or a cheerful and informal vibe with bright colours and patterns – depending on the target group. In addition to functional aspects, such as easy-care flooring and good light, the look of the creative workshop from floor to ceiling should be the focus of planning.
Although nothing new, craft demos and workshops are still a popular creative offering. However, we are rarely given the opportunity to just try out products in store and bring our ideas to life there and then. People can immediately get started if there’s a workspace for them to sit at during their lunch break, without prior booking, or they find ready-to-use material packs with useful instructions on the shelves. Boxes can be provided for unfinished projects and given to store staff for safekeeping. Ideally, there should always be someone in store who can provide expert advice. After all, competent, creative and trained staff are better than any online shop. There could be dedicated hours for advice on particular topics, such as pottery, knitting, sewing, painting with watercolours, etc.
Specialist retailers can do more than just offer materials and a workspace – they can also be a good source of ideas. For example, a father/son creative day might involve building paper kites or wooden boats and a fizzy drink to toast the finished projects, or you could hold a ladies’ night complete with a glass of prosecco, a grandparent/grandchild afternoon or a “free your mind” evening.
Customers can buy kits with creative supplies for when the weather keeps them indoors or they want to try something different and then work on their projects there and then or at home.
Find associates and assistants to help you realise your vision and you’ll save yourself effort while achieving greater reach. Perhaps local artists might be willing to offer tips to customers as they work on their ideas or use the room or table to run their own course. A blogger could invite their followers to a live event or a customer could be convinced to share her skills with others in return for a voucher for materials.
If there’s a café in the same street, why not encourage customers to grab a coffee-to-go there or ask the café to take orders from your store during a knitting afternoon? In return, “done within an hour” craft packs could be delivered to the café on order. In this way, the work is shared but the power of the advertising message is doubled, as everyone promotes the project to their own clientele or acquaintances.
Where do customers prefer to buy – where they can find materials or where they get products+ideas+space for their interests and needs? Specialist retailers who understand how to awaken people’s interest in getting creative have an advantage. Instead of just showing materials such as paints and brushes in your window, offer a complete vision for a home office and the possibility of trying ideas out in store (for a contribution towards expenses or a course fee) and turn a passer-by into a customer. The trick is to stay in touch with customers beyond their store by means of newsletters, social media, an up-to-date website and service offers. Those who also put together back-to-school service packages or project packages including materials and tools for convenient click&collect ordering can further inspire families of school children or hobbyists when they pick up their purchases in the shop. This is how brick-and-mortar retailers are sure to become the first port of call for customers looking to buy.
About the author:
Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.