In a world of “big is best” and “newer the better” the authenticity of retail experiences in many cases has been removed with the old décor. As many 40 somethings, I grew up skating and surfing and having spent much of my career in the Surf, Swim and Active industry, so I’ve seen my share of action sport retail locations. I stumbled across a store recently that epitomizes the authentic spirit of retail days gone by. A store that has over 40 years of heritage in the one location that couldn’t have had a footprint of more than 700sf. The store was dirty, unorganized, beaten up and very manual. I can’t imagine how long ago it was cleaned, and inventory done and for all those reasons, I loved it. If the clearly original décor, layout and fixtures didn’t speak to you then the team certainly did. Not only did they completely know their product, they embraced, lived and were part of the fabric that created their particular industry. There was a realness and interest that is missing from stores today, they were not pushy sales people but loved what they did, and you could feel that in every exchange, and in my opinion, that makes them great sales people. I dropped in to have a quick look and spent over 45mins in their talking with the team and walked out with a few items and a great and very unexpected experience. Many would walk in and walk straight out as we have been conditioned that shiny and new, equates to better, take shopping malls for example. But you can’t buy this sort of authenticity not even if you renovate an old location to a new one. Now, I love a new and shiny store, it’s progress and its innovation and I’m all about that, but every now and then you come across an ugly duckling that’s never destined to be a swan, but it makes a great ugly duckling. While I’m all wrapped up in the excitement of the experience and the gritty feel of retails yesteryear, I do spare a thought for profitability and viability. However, one could argue that after 40 years in business they just could be (one of) the exceptions to the rule… but sadly, in today’s ultra-competitive environment for how much longer.
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