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When Did Experience Retail Become New

In 1990, Nike opened it’s first Niketown. At the time it was considered a big deal because it was a retail outlet that wasn’t based on selling “stuff”. Its reason for being was to allow consumers to experience Nike products and bask in the glory of Michael Jordan’s heroics. Fast forward to this morning as I open the N.Y.Times. There on the front page above the fold, Disney Retail Plan is a Theme Park in Its Stores. What I found so surprising was that the Times thought this was newsworthy. Not that it isn’t a good idea, it is, but when does making the shopping experience fun become news?

If you read my articles you know I believe everything (with the exception of sex and dying) is a reinvention of something which preceded it. Another theme is convergence – the combining of two similar but different concepts to add value to one or both. So when you think about Disney’s retail plan it is part reinvention, part convergence but not news.

So why do you think the Times gave this top billing. Last I checked the Times does not own Disney (possibly soon but it will probably be the other way around.) Could it be that there has been so little innovation, especially in retail, that they found it worth such prominence? Or could it be that writers and editors are so young and do so little research that they don’t know what they are writing about really isn’t new.

Mike Vance who was Dean of Disney College way back when would say that innovation was making new what was old. I really applaud what Disney is doing and from my experience they will be pleasantly surprised by the result. Management deserves high marks for listening to Steve Jobs (a Director) to not be satisfied with incremental change. As Nike found with Niketown the expeience leads to sales. As Starbucks found with coffee a better experience lead to sales at a premium price. As they both found when they allowed the experience to become routine, sales declines followed.

So much is written about the benefits from innovation and continuous improvement but getting managements to walk the walk seems to be hard and getting harder. Getting younger members of organizations to take the time to study what has been can reap true results, even for newspaper writers and editors. There is nothing new in what Disney is doing other than they are doing it. They appear to have climbed from the bunker of this Great Recession and that is a wonderful “green shoot”. .


Comment from Blaine Mcthay
Time July 15, 2011 at 4:19 am

It’s hard to come across knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re writing about! Thank you

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