It's interesting to watch the way shops went from your corner businesses, usually family-owned and then turned into giant box and chain stores. Now, we are back to something more individual and intimate in order to have a customer service experience, an ambiance, and a reason to remain and shop rather than rush in and out to avoid the crowds.
Julie and I recently found a great example of this trend back to neighborhood. Spooky's Swirls in Chandler, Arizona is so gosh-darned fun that you have a reason to actually get out and go to a public place to spend some time and feel you've found your tribe.
This little shop nestled in a fairly dead strip mall (glad to see these coming back to life!) It's not just a gluten-free bakery. (I completely forgot when eating a cupcake that it was gluten free (Why do we need that stuff that is made from Round-up soaked grains? Gluten free is not missing a thing in texture or taste - not at all!)
The shop carries baked goods with adorable themes and amazing tastes -
The coffees are amazing and great names. I had the Unicorn Blood. Mmmmmm
But, while you are enjoying these luxuries, you can mill around a prop museum of items from horror and scifi movies.
One of our favorite antique places is Merchant Square in Chandler, Arizona. It's not just a big antique mall, but it also has a fantastic BBQ restaurant and coffees, vintage sodas inside as a great place to rest and make it a whole day-shopping with a lunch break.
There are 58,000 square feet of amazing vendor shops including a huge outdoor area. For holidays they often have events in the parking lot. The entire business is set up for one to spend an entire day lolling around and having a great meal. If you don't have malls anymore in your area, something like an antique mall is a great alternative to spend the day indoors.
We were contemplating it one day when on the way to one of the remaining malls in the area, that we miss the idea of going to an indoor area (on a hot or cold day) and milling around. What do teens do today? They stay home and play video games and chat on Facebook?
Concept stores are the new rage and they are great - throw a coffee shop within, showcase things in a new way that doesn't involve just rows of shelves and items for sale. I love the idea of a movie set type situation where you can be integrated in the actual environment that happens to have items for sale or a shop that provides your lunchtime yums with a shop to wander in like Cracker Barrel.
Macy's had an interesting concept of a "story space" that showcases unusual quirky items for sale in a way that is visually exciting.
Some shops are breaking down barriers about what a shop sells and how. They might include lots of seating and also teach classes and how-to's. They may host guests for fans to come in and meet up.
Coffee, unique gifts, gourmet items, specialty home goods are all examples of trendy products. If you can enter a gourmet shop and taste the coffee, try out the cheeses and olives, and then have a meal, you get customers who want to buy the products used to make the foods.
Mood and atmosphere stores are a way to get a body into a brick and mortar situation. Imagine going into a shop that looks, smells, feels like a French country shop or a Greek shop with bright Mediterranean colors, music, foods that make you feel like you're traveling? Branding is key!
Lots of restaurants are realizing that themes will haul people in from further distances. What about a restaurant has a summer camp theme or possibly an autumn bonfire feel? The easiest way to get people out of their homes and into your biz is to offer them a sensory experience that feels like whatever they are obsessed about whether it's 1960s hippie themes or Japanese sushi shops.
I'd love to see a shop that is run like YouTube video how-to's, maybe someone like the Downshiftology lady at a table packing up foods and showing how to make many meals from the items, selling the containers, the seasonings and more.... You could stand there, watch how she does things, get inspired, and buy.
Curious Nature, a shop in Phoenix, is a real unique niche shop that is so interesting, it's like visiting a museum. There are loads of animal skeletons and skulls, butterflies pinned to a wall hanging, and curious of a "curious" nature.
Julie and I will be starting our own shops on Etsy and CafePress where we can share items made from unusual sites, tons of bohemian handcrafted items, upcycled fashion, and more. Expect our YouTube channel to be growing rapidly as we begin the new videos and tutorials. Please subscribe -if you are a baby boomer, you will find your bliss.
Shops are working to bring us back in!