Friday, December 18, 2015

everything has a story

It's no longer "just enough" for retailers to have the right products in the right place at the right time with the right signs at the right prices.  Consumers demand the best assortments, with the next-best-things, at their fingertips with immediate availability, at prices they can afford or want to pay, and the most incredible service.  Who could blame them?  With the rise of eCommerce solutions and "two-hour shipping", brands are forced to think outside the box and dazzle the customers.

One advantage traditional brick-and-mortar stores will always hold over eCommerce and other non-contact shopping solutions is the experience.  To capitalize on this, brands are amping up their customer service and literally rolling out the red carpet.  You're no longer just getting a haircut; you're probably drinking vintage champagne or feasting on delectable dolci.   You're no longer navigating parking structures at the airport or waiting in line for an espresso; you're probably being chauffeured in a sedan by the airline and whisked away to the discrete and ultra chic lounge for private check-in and the most extravagant bar, food, and pampering options.  You're not just buying shoes or traversing oceans; you're paying for the experience.

Part of the luxury retail experience is this service.  It's expected.  And it definitely woos clients en masse.   At Christian Dior, I learned straightaway the importance of product knowledge and mastering the codes of the House.  These minute details are part of the story, and clients absolutely eat it up.  So whether describing the intricate detail of the Broderie Cheval t-shirt and its Luneville stitching, the intricate process of hand washing and air drying the calf skin before constructing the coveted Gaucho collection, or describing the pomp and circumstance of Madam Chirac personally requesting the creation of the Lady Dior bag for Princess Diana as a symbol of France on one of her many visits to the country, instilling a piece of this history, an air of this luxury, and enhancing the experience drove the business like none other.

When you get to peak into the business owner's mindset, or learn the story behind a particular piece from a designer, you have so much more appreciation and understanding of the process, the direction, and the artwork behind the product.  It transforms the experience from just shopping in a store to acquiring artwork from a very curated and edited offering.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing my favorite shoe store in Nashville, Peter Nappi.  At Peter Nappi, the most incredible footwear and small leather goods are fatti a mano (made by hand) in Italy.  The space is impressive, the product quality and styling are simply beyond.  I was hooked.  The space envelopes you and quickly transports you to Firenze.  But what I wasn't expecting to see and feel was the detail, the love, and the story behind the designs.  The impressive space is often rented for special events and private parties, but business comes first.  So as you're shopping, you may notice caterers, sound engineers, lighting professionals, and other event staff quietly and unobtrusively preparing for the festa della notte.  While trying not to drool on the countless boots and bags that I thought I couldn't live without, I noticed these incredible arrangements on the bar:

I didn't want to intrude, and couldn't help to take a look at the floral displays.  Simple, elegant, and oh-so gorgeous.  I had to take a closer look:

Nestled in the midst of these fabulous flowers was rosmarino - fragrant, textured, and so unexpected!  Come to find out, these arrangements were personally created by the store's owner in honor of her daughter's engagement.  When you love a space so much, investing heart and soul to create the perfect environment, how can you not feel love?  Seeing these arrangements, and knowing the simple story instantly made me know that my obsession with Peter Nappi sarà per sempre (will be forever).  Seeing the love and care taken, the genuine understanding of all things Toscana, and honest passion manifest in every detail is so obvious.  They're not just shoes; they're more than that.  They're the time spent by the cobbler in Florence.  They're the artisanal methods and traditions passed down from generation to generation.   It's not just leather.  They're repurposed leather pads from a boxing gymnasium in Eastern Europe from the 1930s.  La più bellezza.
I feel the exact same way about Tanis & Co. at modelcitizen.  Fashion isn't just something to buy - it's a way of life.  The ladies at modelcitizen truly represent their namesake, living their best with style, class, and kindness.  One could easily order the latest frock from Parker, fabulously flattering denim from Current/Elliott, or the most iconic wrap from DvF - but the experience, the fun, the advice, and extraordinary level of service provided at modelcitizen separate the professionals from the amateurs.  You might find tens of thousands of options at a department store and only like one or two pieces, but the hand picked offerings at modelcitizen are incredibly edited and perfectly selected, leaving you with limitless choices that are all top notch and stunningly suited.  You could spend years globetrotting, searching for the coolest accessories, most stunning dresses, and most flattering denim around, or you could just take a trip to modelcitizen.  Whether virtually or in person, the service and selection are quite impressive. 

You don't have to own a business or design your own range to exhibit ownership and elevated attention to detail.  Caring for your teammates and clients, focusing on as many aspects of the business as possible, and treating the store/space like your own will instantly elevate your value to the company and solidify your presence to the clients. 

Don't get me wrong.  Not every product or store must come with an elaborate experience and endearing story.  Automobile oil changes need not come with complimentary service for your vacuum cleaner.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I don't really care to learn the detail of refining oil and creating petroleum for fueling my Fiat.  I just need to know that the price is right and the fuel is safe for operating. 

There's a time and place for everyone and everything in retail.  Thankfully as consumers, we can put our money where our mouth is and signal to retailers what we like, what we don't like, and what we expect.  And if you're lucky, and if they're smart, they'll engage in dialogue to learn exactly what you're hoping for.  

From the retail perspective, do us all a favor this holiday season - take a moment to thank your favorite associates, managers, owners, shopkeepers, service providers, and designers.  Tell them what you like, what you may not be in love with, and feel free to ask questions to learn more about the brand, the design, or the people who work there.  Relationships are two-ways.  And in retail, relationships are everything.  After all, tutto (e tutti) ha una storia.  Everything (and everyone) has a story. 


Marko Milicevic said...

If anyone understands what it takes to make retail customers happy - it's Joseph Shippee:-)

Joseph Shippee said...

Thank you, Marko. When I grow up, I want to be a modelcitizen. Plain and simple. Style + Class, always. With a certain compassion for others, incredible attention to detail, and a laser focus to present something new and fresh every collection without losing sight of the mission and direction. You, Tanis, and Co. have the winning combination. It's so refreshing to see.