Against the Grain

Forward-thinking retailers are using stores as incubators for innovation
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Posted September 11, 2017

It’s no secret that today’s merchants, whether they’re department, big box or specialty, have been challenged to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace that questions the very definition of what it means to be a retailer.

Consumers, particularly millennials, have made it abundantly clear that, in the face of growing options, they want more than a transaction. They want experiences, and they’re willing to pay for them in loyalty and more. They value these experiences, and – this is key given what social media has done for “word of mouth” – they are willing to share them.

Enter Timberland’s newest experiential concept store, The Tree Lab, in Pennsylvania’s King of Prussia Mall, which features a design and merchandising strategy that will change every six weeks according to three themes. The first, “Streetology,” debuted last month and is a nod to the “urban nomad” consumer, who explores his or her environment on foot. The next concept, “SHEvolution,” is specifically geared toward women, and the final iteration will be holiday themed and opens in early November.

Says Bevan Bloemendaal, vp of global environments and creative services at Timberland, of the initiative: “This is something completely new for us. No more are [consumers] interested in transactional retail. They’re telling us that we need to give them some type of experience that’s sharable, memorable – that they will come back to more often.”

The effort will serve not only as a new way for the brand to engage its customers on a different stage, it also offers the internal design organization an opportunity to establish future best practices based on lessons learned in a creatively charged, quick-changeover environment. In a landscape where innovation means survival, retailers that are willing to take a chance and try something different will reap the rewards of the insights gleaned during the process.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the exclusive peek inside Timberland’s Tree Lab in an upcoming issue.