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A Simple Concept for Retail

Posted by: headm on: June 18, 2012

I wish somebody would launch a clothing superstore that would carry clothing from any designer and arrange it on the sales floor by style. That store would have, for example, a whole section full of men’s polo shirts where a guy like me could search through all the various colors and brands to find the one I like. It would also have a whole section for skinny jeans – preferably built just off the edge of a cliff, with a removable floor.

It’s not that I don’t understand merchandizing. I understand it well. Stores put stuff out in plain sight in order to catch people’s attention. Basic items that people usually go to the store to buy are inconvenient to find because searching for them serves two purposes. First, while you’re looking for an item you develop a subconscious attachment to it. Second, any time you spend looking for one thing you’re also looking at a whole lot of other things the store would like to sell. What’s not to get?

The fact that I understand merchandizing doesn’t make me enjoy the experience of being manipulated every time I walk into a store. Quite the opposite. And I don’t think I’m alone. I’d be willing to bet that one of the reasons people buy clothes online is that on an online shopping site we can search for “men’s polo shirts” and view a bunch of men’s polo shirts without having racks of ugly, gaudy, graffiti-covered T-shirts shoved down our throats.

The problem with a website is that you can’t touch the merchandise. How do you buy clothes when you can’t touch them or try them on? For some items it doesn’t matter, but it’s ridiculous to buy a nice or expensive article of clothing without knowing the texture of the fabric or the way it’s going to drape on your body.

If there were a retail store where you could try the clothes on, but that was organized more like a website than a department store, life would be so much easier. Most of us know what we want when we walk into the store. The guy who wants an ugly, graffiti-covered T-shirt probably isn’t in the market for up-market menswear, and I’m certainly not in the market for his T-shirt. There’s no reason why our paths should even cross.

Further, I think that customers would actually appreciate an environment that self-consciously avoided merchandizing. With understanding comes irritation, and the brand could play on that by teaching customers how to circumvent the manipulations of other stores, strengthening its position and building loyalty.

I do realize that nobody’s going to start this store. People who launch store chains like merchandizing because it makes them money. But you can bet the next time I walk into a department store to look at men’s polo shirts and find myself imprisoned among racks of graffiti-covered T-shirts, I’ll be wishing they would.

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