Everyone knows that retail is changing, that the pandemic has fully revealed the power of online purchasing to both vendors and consumers and that physical stores have to change their approach or perish in the face of the digital tsunami.
So it was interesting to see Dick’s Sporting Goods, the chain with around 10% of the US fishing retail market, open the first of its new concept stores last week. Located in Victor, New York, the store is the biggest of it’s 800-plus nationwide portfolio.
In addition to 100,000 square feet of traditional space, the sprawling complex also has a 17,000 square foot outdoor sports field, running track, golfing bays, putting green, rock climbing wall, batting cage and a health and wellness centre. Dick’s logic is to lure people in who don’t necessarily want to buy, but who may be persuaded to do so by the environment and the experience.
The link is the way the experience relates to the company’s products and creates the association with Dick’s, says Richard Kestenbaum, a partner at Triangle Capital, a specialist in mergers, acquisitions and capital raising for consumer-related businesses.
“The idea is the same one that makes you shop when you’re on vacation; you don’t go to Las Vegas or Orlando for the sole purpose of shopping, but there’s a good chance that you’ll come home with a new handbag or a hat with mouse ears. Like those vacation destinations, Dick’s is trying to build a side door into your wallet.”
Dick’s commitment to and investment in large physical stores is all the more interesting given that the trend, according to CEOs spoken to by Kestenbaum, is towards fewer and smaller premises. He also ponders the route of large stores collaborating with other retailers and brands to fill floor space and cross-sell to similar consumer demographics.
These may be routes for some, but Westenbaum speculates that another answer could lie in giving consumers a reason to come in whether they are in buying mode or not. Dick’s new store may prove the theory. While the concept is clearly difficult in some markets, it’s easier to make a connection between sports products and related activities.
“For retailers that can make it work, it means more sales in-store,” says Kestenbaum. “But that’s not all; it also means that the brand is more likely to be top-of-mind when consumers shop online and that means more sales and profits overall.
“The fundamental question is: what is a store for? If the answer is only to sell products, then the new Dick’s store doesn’t make sense and it will fail. But if the answer is to build a brand, to entertain, to keep consumers engaged so that they think of the brand whenever they need a relevant product, then it is part of the answer.
“It also means that we are in for some new stores that will be different and more innovative than anything ever seen before.”