I am happy to write about something happening in my neighborhood. Dick's has decided to erect its first destination store concept at my local mall, Eastview Mall in Victor, New York (a suburb of Rochester, NY).
As malls and retailers are struggling with how to pivot as more and more product sales are conducted online, Dick's has decided to explore the path of offering substantially enhanced customer experiences as a part of its retail brand.
This will not be your typical sporting goods store. The concept is to merge product with service, experience and community building. Imagine a place that offers a turf field by summer, an ice-skating rink by winter and a running track and rock climbing wall all year-round. Imagine workshops and training sessions for athletes of every type and all ages. Imagine team practices at the store. Imagine advice on how to create your own home gym. And imagine a juice bar, movie nights and birthday parties as a part of the concept. Every department within the store will have an experience element built in.
And, as another example of its community-building, this Dick's store will conduct a community contest to name the field.
This should begin to give you an idea of how brick-and-mortar retailers must evolve to compete with the convenience and cost-savings of online product sales.
Successful brands have always focused on emotional and experiential customer benefits over functional benefits. And the most successful brands have created a sense of community based on shared values. They have become the home for tribes of like-minded individuals. And retail brands that follow this path have become destinations.
While elements of this have been tried by retailers before, this is a first for a pure sporting goods store. For instance, several sporting goods stores have featured rock climbing walls. Orvis offers classes on fly tying, casting and other fly-fishing skills. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World format has indoor ponds, fish aquariums, restaurants and archery ranges and teaches classes on everything from fly fishing, dutch oven cooking and archery to hunting and GPS navigation. Its largest store, Bass Pro Shops Pyramid in Memphis, TN is housed within a 321 foot (32 story) high pyramid structure.
And looking further afield, consider the Build-a-Bear Workshop brand, which creates a complete experience around customizing one's own teddy bear. Or the Rochester-based grocery store brand, Wegmans, which grows stronger and stronger every year by constantly creating and innovating new customer experiences within their stores.
I am looking forward to how this concept evolves, what will work and what will not work as well, what will be added and what will go away. But, rest assured, I think Dick's is on to something. This is the only way brick-and-mortar retail will thrive well into the next decade.