Is clothes shopping an enjoyable recreation, a painful chore or an avoid at all costs like going to the dentist experience? I've always enjoyed shopping but have to admit that some retail outlets are more enjoyable than others and I still avoid sale shopping on the High Street. As a small boy my mum used to leave me to own devices in the Early Learning Centre playing with wooden train sets whilst she explored the High Street and boutiques on offer in Canterbury, or if we went anywhere else I would be left with my sister in the Toy Department and she pawed over the rails on the Women's Fashion floor. I learned from an early age that shopping was always more than a simple hunter/gatherer exercise, it was an experience. However, despite the significant rise in the menswear market in recent years I know that I am in the minority who actually enjoy shopping.
Via WeAreTheMarket I came across an interesting Forbes article on Men's Shopping Shrines. The article explores how a growing number of stores are enticing men in through their doors by offering a little more than just good stock - Convincing men to shop, requires making them feel like they're not really shopping in the first place. It seems that to get the majority of men to shop, retailers are taking the approach that many parents take in forcing their children to eat their greens...through gimmicks and mild deception (they haven't quite reached the full blown desperation stage -bribery, but after reading this article they just might one day soon!). Unique amenities such as a wine bar or video games are the sorts of things that are becoming essential to attracting-and-retaining male shoppers. I'm all for more stores creating a welcoming retail environment but do we really need wine bars and videogames?
Clockwise from top left: John Varvatos Store in New York, The Manly Man in LA, BBlessing and The Mechanic both in New York.
The article highlights Paul Smith's approach to retail (there was an interesting discussion between the bstore chaps and Paul Smith in the POP IN paper which I enjoyed reading and then subsequently left at a bar! Well worth a read though!) where the goal is to create a welcoming environment in which a shopper feels as though he's walking into a close friend's home. Amongst the clothes there are all types of nick nacks, paintings and furniture. Cliff Hunt (Head of US Retail at Paul Smith) believes that "having other items makes it more interesting for men to shop, especially in an environment like this. They can come into our store and even if they are not interested in apparel, there are other items to pique their curiosity. They don't have to buy anything to enjoy browsing in the store. It's a destination."
The Paul Smith Shopping Experience which all began with his first store in Nottingham in 1970.
I hate the way that High Streets are all looking so homogenous. It's the one thing that gets me really irrate. I strive to ensure that every Paul Smith store looks totally different from the others. And the objects that we have in there are as important to me as the clothes. Of course I design clothes, that's how I earn my living, but the Old Curiosity Shop aspect - that you never know what you might find knocking around in Paul Smith, from a beautiful painting to a bootleg Dylan record or a brilliant tin robot - is the clincher. Someone said that walking round one of my stores was like being inside a Joseph Cornell box. I was dead chuffed.
Whereas I see a number of the US stores verging on the side of gimmicky I just love Paul Smith's approach to retail and I'm not alone because he is damn successful. All in all what does shopping mean to you? Do you see shopping as a recreation or a chore, if it is a chore how can shops make it a more enjoyable experience? Where would you like menswear retail to go?