Stores Live On: Two Reasons to Go to the Mall

It takes a lot for me to leave NYC for the suburbs. But my recent visit to the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, NJ was well worth it. In the span of a few hours, I had two of the most memorable retail experiences I can recall.

First, I went to Pirch. This is a home appliance concept unlike any other. While I’ve never personally undertaken a home re-model, I’ve kept an eye on chains like Home Depot and Lowe’s, both recognized for their digital and omnichannel efforts. But Pirch is an in-store experience and it’s unlike any other. It’s contextual in that displays are merchandised by need and fully furnished as rooms, not stacked in aisles. It leverages people, product and digital to provide opportunities for interactivity. And it’s aspirational in that it’s beautiful. It’s a space in which you want to spend time, and not just because you’re greeted with a complimentary espresso bar. In fact, it’s such an elevated environment that signage assures customers pricing is the same it would be anywhere else. While I didn’t leave having ordered anything, it will be my first stop next time I’m in the market for an appliance or hardware.

Second, I went to Nordstrom. After peeking at the Wedding Suite, where I spent many working days between 2011 and 2013, I beelined for the shoe department. Specifically, I headed to an area dedicated to Shoes of Prey. On my radar screen for a couple of years, Shoes of Prey is based in Sydney and custom makes design-your-own shoes. Nordstrom now partners with them to provide the service in a handful of stores. To say I was impressed with the execution is an understatement. It’s the best combination of physical/digital AND human/technology I’ve seen anywhere. And I seek these experiences out all over the world. The online would-be-DIY technology is enhanced with guidance from a Nordstrom salesperson. And touching the material swatches and trying on a sample helps. The experience reinforces that 1+1=3 (or more!) when stores, e-commerce, people and technology hit the right notes with the right balance.

I left the mall happily empty-handed (who really wants to carry packages when delivery is free and easy anyway?) and started getting e-mails from Shoes and Prey about where my oxfords were in the manufacturing process. I received my order earlier than promised. The packaging was differentiated. High-end for the price, but with a discount offer for my next purchase. The shoes fit well and look great. And a recent Shoes of Prey e-mail — also well done — provided inspiration for designing special occasion shoes. So I may be back for more.