Thursday, 2 October 2008

Are you a happy shopper?

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.

In an interview with The Guardian, Paul Smith had this to say:

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?


Anonymous said...

I'd like to see more online stores like OKI-Ni that focuses on menswear as well as concept stores. The usual case is that the priority is womenswear and the menswear just comes along as an insertion.

I've heard that a decent no. of stores in Scandinavia focused on menswear are springing up and I do hope a lot of cities in the world follow.

And shopping is enjoyable if and only if you are NOT on a BUDGET! hahaaaaa

Matthew Spade said...

i remember when i was about 10 i woke up with a really sore leg (this was random) and i got dragged to manchester with my mum and auntie. i can remember like it was yesterday, going up and down up and down on the escalators. then having to sit down on a chair in M&S for what seemed like years.

i was amazed how got the paul smith shop on floral street was, ive been a couple of times now. i loved it, so right about the whole not liking shopping bu you can still appreciate the environment. the shop in leeds was quite good but didn't give the same effect for me.

i love shopping and the whole experience, especially planning a day out and traveling somewhere, the after the shopping going out for a meal. me and my girlfriend do that about every 2 months.

sales are iffy, best done online id say, if something catches my eye in the shop i try and snap it up online at sale times. id say all saints is pretty good in the sale, most of the shop gets reduced and isnt as messy as some places.

again you have done a post which makes me want to come to london! stop teasing!

Anonymous said...

I think these tactics for getting guys into stores and to shop are great! :) I'll admit it, I don't like shopping when I tell myself I'm going out to shop, but if I'm just on the street and wander into a store because of video games or a glass of wine, then I will be more inclined to buy whats around me. The crazy psyche that is the human male. HA :)

Style Salvage Steve said...

giancinephile - I agree that it has often been the case that menswear is tacked on as an afterthought but times are changing. How about danieljenkins, oi polloi and bstore to name a few?

mat ahoy - Forced shopping as child always has left a memory with us all! Paul Smith has so many stores and they are all so different. He is a true gem! Shopping should be a day out and why not share it with a loved one?

dapp3r - Mixing alcohol and shopping is dangerous. Good for the store but not so good for my bank balance!

TheSundayBest said...

I love shopping and think that a bad shopping experience is a bad shopping experience regardless of gender. So - H&M = bad, Opening Ceremony = good.

Uniqlo = good. Future Shop/Best Buy = bad.

Style Salvage Steve said...

thesundaybest - As always I agree with you Thom. I just think that in recent years there has been a welcome increase in the number of 'positive shopping' menswear stores and bi-gendered stores have become less female focussed as the menswear market has matured. All in all, things are on the up!


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