Is blogging on holiday something only saddos do? Withdrawal symptom from email probably!!
Well the view over Central Park in NY is great, but this early in the day I cant be bothered to crawl out despite the quality of US TV driving me to despair. No the adverts haven’t improved. You know those ads with 15 seconds of healthy grandparents who lived to see their grandchildren and enjoy a healthy sex life from those drugs with 45 seconds of side effects including death, pain, agony, loss of digits, nausea, vomitting and headaches. Cars can evidently be sold in the US only if they come with aaaamaaazing discounts from men with daft voices. Subtle eh?
The quality of ads contrasts so much with the quality of retail in the sprawl of sunshine and skyscrapers we’ve come to visit. We are in a 13 year old’s idea of retail heaven – Big Apple, the other Apple, Abercombie, Old Navy and Dad’s credit card !
Let’s start with our first ventures around a couple of blocks from 59th and 5th – the corner of Central Park and Fifth Avenue where FAO Schwarz and the Apple store contrast old and new retailing. FAO Schwatz ( http://www.fao.com/ ) has been around as a toy store since 1872 and represents all the traditional shopping you can muster with rows ofd stuff to look at. On the plus side there’s lots for the kids to interact with including a 10m keyboard they can jump around on and whch has featured in many films including A Christmas Story (1983). Someone from John Lewis once told me that one of their KPIs was that someone entering a shop should be greeted within one minute if they are to feel good about their visit. They even mystery shop to make sure its happening. Well Schwarz have always had a toy soldier at the door to greet you. Not subtle but it works.
The Apple Store on the other hand is probably the ultimate in designed shopping experiences. The approach is a hovering Apple logo in a glass box above street level. You know you’re in for something different.
There are greeters bantering with people entering and leaving and then your entrance is either by a glass lift inside the glass box or a glass spiral staircase. You get the picture. And then of course the “normal” for Apple, well lit, loads of circulation space, big tables, loads of demo kit, lots of savvy people to help every which way you look.
A couple of contrasts with the London store though. The design idea of taking credit card buyers out from the queue doesn’t work because so few people in the US store use credit cards judging by the length of line and lack of success the guys asking were having.
Secondly the buzz around iPhones. Everyone wants to play with one. There were hundreds out there all working, set up with data and wifi to test and play with. Yes I can vouch for the fact it feels like an iPod, does the obvious stuff easily and sexily. Gotta get one. But there are 2 issues I didnt solve – texting seemed to be a small qwerty touchscreen. Yuk. And with a max of 8 gigabytes I couldn’t replace my iPod when its time is up. It’ll be interesting to see how O2 gets on selling it for Xmas in the UK. And what Vodafone come up with in response…
Still this place is a testament to the whole design- an-experience approach with rows of tills taking tons of money 24 hours a day (and DJ’d music events on Friday and Saturday night).
2 blocks down 5th Avenue is the flagship Abercrombie and Fitch store. Now this is really what Beth came for.
The greeters look like minor film stars; and there’s a greeter on every floor of course. Everyone looks like one of the dressed models in the abundant black and white photos to be seen in strategic places, on TV and on the billboards. They show the clothes like they’re meant to be. In fact a little digging on the website (http://www.abercrombie.com/) shows that they are called ‘cast’ and can apply to be in the photo shoots and films.
The set has been dressed and lit to show the clothes at their best. The lighting is theatrical, dark and different. The clothes are piled deep in every size so you are not going to struggle to find the one you want. And if you did some model would walk up to you and offer help.
And the sound system is straight from the best night club, played loud and louder (see http://www.meyersound.com/news/2006/abercrombie/ ). And you can get the soundtrack at the website. This a place that has been designed to be good. Needless to say the tills are clattering.
It was established in 1892 and has always been a bit different. Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abercrombie_&_Fitch and see what made them a different store early last century.
Well the hour has reached something decent so its time for a NY breakfast…… more on food joints next time