Hometail: The new Experiential Retail Strategy

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Providing consumers with a blended experience of retail and hospitality in a homely setting – or hometail – is an increasing popular retail strategy.

The post-internet retail landscape is a place where consumers are used to making friction-less online purchases in seconds with ease. The act of selecting and then buying requires little engagement. So how do brands persuade consumers to step away from their keyboards and actually venture out to engage with a product, choose it and then buy it?

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Armed with the knowledge that today’s consumer not only demands the ultimate in convenience, but is seeking life-enriching experiences, many brands are exploring a new retail strategy. ‘Hometail’ enables consumers to experience products in a homely environment, while they’re busy doing something else.

Soho Home – White City House Hotel

The power of this strategy shouldn’t be underestimated. For instance, Soho House started life as a members’ club in 1995 and is now a global empire. One of its latest successful brands is Soho Home, which was started because guests were always asking where they could buy similar soft furnishings. Now it also sells furniture, tableware, textiles and accessories that are inspired by or used in its exclusive Soho House members’ clubs.

Taking this to the next level is The Manzoni, the new restaurant in Milan by Tom Dixon, where diners can pretty much shop while they’re at their tables. Everything from the table settings, and glassware, to the bar stools, and candle holders is available to buy, so customers get to experience the products while sampling good food in a beautifully designed setting. It’s a kind of ‘live’ furniture showroom environment – albeit a 5,000sq ft one – where visitors can relax and enjoy themselves.

Blending retail and hospitality is a successful formula that’s increasingly popular. For instance, visitors to Rick Stein’s restaurants will notice that the tableware range they enjoyed using during their meal is also available to buy on the way out, while they’re still basking in the afterglow of their happy culinary experience.

The Audo Hotel, Copenhagen

As a new approach to running a design business, design brand Menu teamed up with Norm Architects on The Audo, a hotel in Copenhagen where the 10 guest suites double up as show spaces for new furniture and homeware. “By showing our collection in different contexts within hospitality we will make the collection become more alive,” Joachim Hansen, director of Menu told Dezeen.

But taking the hometail strategy in another direction is Merci in Paris. In 2017 the fashion and interiors business conducted a pop-up experiment in a house in Montmartre as a way to showcase the brand in a lifestyle context. The success of this store, which was presented as a living space, has led it two years on to buy an apartment next door to its original store. This has been sympathetically refurbished and kitted out with all the brand’s products, and has just opened with a view to operating as a kind of showroom that can be visited by appointment. Customers are able to see products in a homely setting.

One high street retailer jumping onto this trend is H&M, opening their first ‘home concept’ store in Regent Street earlier this year. Set across two floors, the store claims to be an interior and lifestyle destination, offering H&M homeware pieces alongside a curated collection of pieces from selected other brands, as well as an ‘ever-changing event area’, an in-store cafe and florist.

H&M Concept Store, Regent Street, London

Anders Sjöblom, Managing Director of H&M Home, commented “Our new Concept Store is a new approach to the interior industry offering a new level of inspiration, customer services and collaborations. This store is a perfect physical complement to our digital presence through social media and e-commerce.”

What the hotel industry has achieved for bathroom design over recent years is proof that consumers engage more with products when they are relaxed and actually experiencing them in a live setting. Finding ways to harness this and reinvigorate their own retail environments certainly gives brands food for thought.

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