With all the talk about what comprises a compelling retail experience, I thought I'd walk my readers through an experience I had to see if you'd shop at this store. Over the past 5-years, I've had many conversations with high-ranking retail executives about creating a more compelling environment for their shoppers - with much money being spent on shopper behavior, aisle size, research from Paco Underhill and so forth there are some stores that are breaking the rules and still cashing in.
A retail experience I had yesterday, had me thinking about all of those talks and how the hell this store continues to thrive.
So, imagine if all of the following retail attributes were tested in a series of focus groups. In my opinion, this store would have never seen the light of day.
Okay, here goes:
Not everybody can shop here.
You most likely will have to park two or three hundred yards away from the front door.
Once you get to the front door, there is no discerning logic as to which door is the one you should walk in and which one you should exit - the mass of humanity fighting to get in and out proves that point.
The carts are the size of a Smart car.
You have to show I.D. to get in the front door.
The merchandise changes constantly. Once it sells out it is gone (except for staple items).
There is almost never a sale on anything in the store.
You'd most likely not just 'run in to get something, quick.' You can't buy one loaf of bread, always 2 wrapped together and you can't buy one-package of bagels, always two.
In most interior aisles, the Smart car-sized carts do not allow two-people to make it through an aisle at the same time.
The clothes and books are in stacks, the jewelry is in a locked case and the DVD's, video games and CD's have the old-school big packaging.
The help are mostly stockers and not consultative or experts on the merchandise, even in the electronics section.
You can't buy one of anything, products are usually in packs of 2 or more and is typically more than you'll ever need.
In the food section on a weekend, you can barely get your cart through any of the aisles.
On the weekends, they have sampling tables set-up at the end of aisles that blocks the aisles and stops up traffic in all the busiest sections.
The take and bake pizzas are the size of man holes and don't fit into the smart car cart.
They have bottles of wine that are vintage and over $100 in a box next to cheap wine.
The bottles of spirits are for a party, not for a home bar.
You often will need two of the smart car carts because the food and merchandise comes in boxes and packaging so large, one cart fills up quickly.
At check out, the lines are always long - granted, they move quick.
Once you get to the check-out, you have to show your I.D. card again.
The cart goes to the left and you go to the right.
You can only use an Amex, debit card or cash - Mastercard, Visa or any other card not accepted.
It is almost impossible to spend less than $100/visit and you will most likely spend over $200.
Once through the check out, you are seduced by the most delicious hot dogs, churros and pizza you will ever taste for super-cheap, you might like it but your cholesterol doesn't.
After you are in a hot dog coma, you have to prove that you bought all of that merchandise in your smart car cart by showing your receipt on the way out.
Do you know where you are, by now? I bet you do.
Kudos to the people at Costco for creating a retail concept so compelling and attractive to the consumer that we deal with all of the supposed retail faux pas' I document above. Kudos to them that even in a recession, a Costco on a Saturday afternoon is one of the last places I want to be, even though it was one of my favorite stores in America.
Do you have anything about Costco you'd add to this list?