Although it is difficult to keep up with the effect of rapidly evolving technology on consuming behaviors, the U.S. retail industry deserves great respect for the many ways it is reinventing itself. Retail heavyweights like Best Buy (BBY), Target (TGT), jcpenney (JCP), and Build-A-Bear (BBW) are revisiting and reevaluating traditional values and business practices, re-imagining and rethinking what a brick-and-mortar store has to offer, and reengineering and retooling systems and processes. Clearly the "re" is back in retailing.
While many of these "re's" go unnoticed by the average consumer, as many major retail chains are now redesigning their end product - their brick-and-mortar stores and their customer experience - consumers can't help but notice the rebirth.
Best Buy Redesign or Repeat?
In an effort to transform its current big box format into a big profit center Best Buy has created a redesigned prototype store, which is new for Best Buy, but not so new for consumer electronics shoppers. Reportedly Best Buy has shamelessly borrowed the store design of one of its biggest competitors, mimicking the look, feel and even the Genius Bar of the uber successful Apple Retail Stores. So it's not so much or a redesign for Best Buy as it is a repeat.
It's safe to assume that Apple (AAPL) is unfazed by Best Buy's pilfering, since so many other retailers have already done the same. Actually, the Apple team is probably trying to figure out if anybody had the 11-years-two-months space in the Best Buy Copycat pool. Who would have predicted that it would take Best Buy so long?
Microsoft (MSFT), Disney (DIS), Tesla (TSLA), AT&T (T), and LEGO stores have already openly mimicked the Apple retail store format. Samsung (SSNLF) and jcpenney are the latest Apple wannabes.
Samsung's first Apple clone store opened in Vancouver this month, and former Apple-executive-turned-jcpenney-CEO Ron Johnson has been busy adapting and adopting Applesque strategies like mobile checkouts to help jcpenney regain its relevance. Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton was apparently right when he said, "Most of us don't invent ideas. We take the best ideas from someone else."
Target's Redesign Aims at a New Target
Target is another retail chain that has been working on a major redesign, creating CityTarget stores that will fit in urban locations both in terms of size and store design aesthetic. The first CityTarget stores opened this week in Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle with 80,000 square feet, a sleek urban aesthetic, no lawn and garden department, and much smaller back rooms.
While CityTargets are not Apple copycat stores, they do sell Apple products and they generate those sales in an Applesque manner. Free Wi-Fi in CityTarget stores allows customers to fully demo the Apple inventory, as well as browse and order Apple items that are not in stock. Other than that, first reports from consumers are that the CityTargets are both different and the same, and the Target presence in CBD's is welcome.
Build-A-Bear Reworks to Reengage
Build-A-Bear also announced recently that it will be unveiling a re-imagined store design in six cities in the near future. Since Maxine Clark was recognized as the Retail Innovator of the Year before Apple opened its first retail store, and since Build-A-Bear was recognized as THE hot retail concept while Apple retail stores were still in the planning stages, a reworked Build-A-Bear Workshop also promises to be something from the leading edge of specialness.
Reportedly the Build-A-Bear team has been working on their redesign for more than two years, and they tell us they will be using "the power of technology to provide a magical new experience for Guests of all ages." The "magical" has been an important aspect of the Build-A-Bear retail experience from the beginning, and to ensure that the magic continues, the new and improved Build-A-Bear experience was developed with the help of a group of kids and their moms. With that kind of business process reengineering team, there's little doubt that the new and improved Build-A-Bear Workshop will be beary engaging.
Beyond that we don't know much about the reworked workshop except that Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark thinks it will be fun, innovative, and memorable. If mama bear says so, it's probably true.
Award-winning Retail Design
While redesign is the name of the retail game today, design has always been an integral part of the retail business and the retail shopping experience. There is seemingly no end to the creativity and innovation of retail display and visual merchandising artists. Proof of that is the winners of the Visual Merchandising and Store Design (VMSD) 2012 International Visual Competition, which were announced recently.
The artistry of these award-winning store displays is impressive enough, but considering that these particular awards are given only to visual merchandising project that had a 'limited shelf-life," the elaborateness of these designs is even more impressive. Click here to view the 2012 VMSD International Visual Competition award winners >>
Redesigning the Future
Design and re-design alone won't do all the work in today's challenging retail environment. But design creates excitement, and excitement attracts customers. After that, the retailers that have re-examined what turns shoppers into buyers these days will surely find that they have redesigned their future.