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The evolution of classroom retail

Brands are looking to experiences to draw people back to bricks-and-mortar shopping. Classroom retail is a key opportunity to build customer-brand relationships with lasting loyalty while increasing dwell time and driving revenue per square foot.

The Low-Down On Classroom Retail

Imagine going to your favourite fashion brand and learning how to tailor your outfit to the perfect fit for you. Or going to an Asian supermarket and getting a masterclass in cooking the ingredients that you wanted to try but always perplexed you. 1/3 of UK shoppers are interested in attending a lifestyle lesson or club at their favourite store (Westfield, 2016), and there is a wealth of untapped opportunities for brands to provide customers with product related skills and activities that elevate the physical retail experience.

Brands are tapping into this trend, on both a large and a small scale. In addition to its range of cycling related merchandise, London based café and cycling workshop Look Mum No Hands sells maintenance courses that teach the fundamentals of keeping your bicycle roadworthy. Alongside the screenings of cycling events and cycling themed art exhibitions the classes on offer create a supportive community space for enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
On a global scale, sports brands like Sweaty Betty, Nike and Lululemon offer complimentary fitness classes in stores. This drives footfall, builds a consistent relationship with customers and increases opportunities for spend. Not to mention the unique opportunity it provides to gain insight into how customers feel about brand. In the case of Lululemon, yoga class participants revealed that they really wanted was a fabric that had a barely there feel – and thus Nulu was born.

And its not just practical skills and activities that people want brands to provide. Sometimes the thing that people are really missing is a stolen moment to relax and indulge with the excuse to try something new.
We recently worked with Argos Home to create a classroom retail based pop up for the launch of the brand’s A/W range. The hosted experience paired a low pressure sales environment with a schedule of arts and crafts workshops led by independent creatives, from Arm Kitting workshops hosted by I Make Knots to Brush Lettering workshops hosted by The Lovely Drawer.
Guests were invited to take two hours out of their busy schedules to try their hand at a creative new skill while being treated with complimentary hot drinks and snacks. The combination of relaxation, community building and creativity in a calm, premium setting helped shift brand perception and drive sales.

Making The Most Of Bricks-And-Mortar

Brands often miss out on maximising use of store space after hours. Brands could combine post-work socialising with product pick up and a new skill thrown into the bargain. After hours activities not only make full use of a space’s rent but enable different demographics to participate, unlocking new opportunities for revenue.

There’s an opportunity here for employers and coworking spaces too. People are taking a 360 view to their development and want to develop the skills for success in all aspects of their life. Brands could partner with big businesses to run workshops and classes. Brands like Tuxe have already created schemes to support customers’ professional journeys. Physical retail spaces can build on existing efforts and provide a great venue to translate online support into an in-person opportunity to connect.
Smart partnerships will add pulling power and endow the brand with an expert’s perspective. The key challenge here is finding the right individual or partner brand whose values align. A partner program will need to extend beyond surface level celebrity or influencer endorsement to feel authentic.
Ultimately, for classroom retail to succeed, brands need to go beyond social shares and deliver something meaningful for customers, that truly adds to their lives.
 
Images courtesy of Look Mum No Hands, Lululemon and Household.

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