22 July 2008

Retail expert Mike Kraus shares his TWEAK love

Retail Boutique Offers a Unique Experience

Thursday, June 12 2008

I’m feeling like retail has been quite boring of late. It’s the same themes, the same holidays, the same experience in the store and honestly, it’s just completely uninspired.

In this ever connected world, it’s interesting to note that by the lack of face-to-face communication, we’re actually becoming more disconnected. So how do you connect with your clients and customers?

I was shopping at a store the other day that I love called Tweak. Tweak is a little home accessories boutique. There are so many interesting things going on in the store that they add up to a totally unique experience that allows the owner (Tara) and the store itself to connect to customers. Here’s how Tara does it…

The owner is warm, engaging and inviting. You’re walking into Tara’s store, her space, her home. She wants to help you. She wants to tell you stories. She wants to explain things. She could be overbearing, but she lets you just “be” if you want to. I kind of wanted to just “be”, but as soon as I had a question, or wanted some background, Tara was right there. She probed to find out who I was shopping for, what I wanted to spend, what the style and tastes of the person are. And then helped me choose things, told me stories about the merchandise which just completely drew me in.

The merchandise is unique. Each piece seemed like a one of a kind work of art – each was unique, exquisite and altogether different from one another. Each had a story about the designer, the artist or the creator or manufacturer; about the country of origin, about the design inspiration. I love that.

The merchandising was original. The entire collection was displayed in a museum-like setting, with only one of each available (or so it seemed). You wanted to browse, you wanted to discover. I canvassed the entire store three or four times. When I couldn’t find that last item to round out the set of gifts I was purchasing, Tara showed me an amazing berry spoon. It had been there all along, I just didn’t see it. And Tweak didn’t need pictures of the products, lifestyle imagery, vases of flowers, etc. to make the store environment and experience appealing. The merchandise IS the visual merchandising – a rarity in retail today.

Each item came prewrapped. As I selected items, Tara went to the back and pulled the items for me, each prewrapped in beautiful paper and ribbon. I didn’t have to think about purchasing gift wrap and dealing with that whole thing. Tara made it easy for me with a one-stop shop mentality.

Finally, Tara connects through her blog. She shows you what's new. She gives you advice. With her blog, you're being invited into her life, cementing her relationship with each of her customers.

Retail CAN be unique in today’s disconnected world. It CAN be inspired. It CAN be authentic.

Tweak was about an experience, not just about shopping. From the interaction with Tara, to the unique merchandise and visual merchandising, and the pre-wrapped gifts, the experience was one-of-a-kind. And even though not all of the merchandise appealed to my sensibility, Tara’s merchandise mix allowed every person who walked in to find things that appealed to them.

By the time I left, I felt that I not only did I have a unique shopping experience, but I made a friend. And that’s a rare treat in retail today.

So how did my gifts go over? Unbelievably fantastic! I had three unique items that in themselves were impressive. But when I shared the origins of the items, a little backstory about each of them and more, my gift recipient couldn't have been more impressed - it was as if each item was carefully selected from a list she would have created herself. And that's the beauty of Tweak - the connection between Tara and her customers.