BusinessWeek has an insightful article by Amy Tsao about the comeback of smaller specialty retailers.
As it turns out, news of their death at the hands of Wal-Mart was greatly exaggerated:
Wal-Mart’s influence over shoppers “has peaked,” says Zandl. Maybe consumers need to go to big-box retailers to buy toilet paper, cat food, and such everyday items. But shopping is about more than the necessities. And “more consumers today are looking for products and experiences that are more unique, more stylish, and more sensory than what Wal-Mart delivers.” The retail giant did not return calls for comment.
We could have told them. It’s about “the experience, stupid.” We’ve written about that here on Small Business Trends many times.
When buying necessities, consumers go for price. After all, how much pleasure can you get out of buying paper towels and laundry detergent?
But when it comes to other items, consumers want shopping to be an experience. They want the pleasurable sensory experience, fabulous selection and great service that comes from shopping at niche retailers. You can get low low prices at Wal-Mart, but it’s not exactly big on atmosphere.
Another growing trend in retail is that of shopping online. Sales via the Internet are expected to grow 19% this holiday season, to US$21.6 Billion.
That may seem to go against the grain of the “experience shoppers.” But not really, when you think about it. Good Internet sites tend to offer a much larger selection. And the convenience of shopping from your PC without having to fight the crowds sounds downright inviting.