Why a concept store is the way forward

We asked Terri Winter, co-owner and founder of  Aussie concept retail store top3 by design to share her thoughts on ‘experiential shopping’ and concepts―what she sees is important in retail today and what has made top3 by design so successful.

Your customers no longer come to your store just to shop. They go shopping to touch and feel the products and to experience the product and the environment.

I would argue that technology has enabled many new ways to interact with the customers, but the fundamentals of retail remain the same. 

Good old customer service

Creating an experience should not be at the detriment to customers finding what they want easily. The basics of retail are more important than ever; customers still want good customer service―in an authentic, genuinely friendly way. Once the basics of customer service are covered, they also want an inspiring shopping experience. 

Be memorable

Not only do you need to get customer service right and your inventory right, you need to be memorable. One thing that is VERY different from the ‘good old days’ is your customer has so many alternatives to your store that you can be easily forgotten―even if you do a good job.

Creating YOUR concept

You don’t need to start turning your business into a juice-bar in the morning or have a DJ in-store to create an experience (although if that naturally fits then Amaaaazing!). What you need to have is a concept. Your OWN concept. It is not a matter of ‘adding on’ an experience because everyone is talking about it; it needs to feel that it belongs to you. Unexpected is fantastic―but a mismatch leaves your customer confused. 

Ultimately, if you want a new pair of jeans and you walk into a store and they have a live DJ, you will think that is pretty cool―but it gets much less amazing when they don’t have what you came in for and they can’t help you. Experience is great if it adds to your credibility―it is detrimental if it erodes it.

Ask yourself some questions―what is it that is uniquely YOU―why should people seek you out and come into your store? It is unlikely to be one thing―it is likely to be a series of qualities combined that make you a destination. Work them out and then enhance them. Make them truly yours. These days you CAN be niche. Figure out whom you are talking to and make sure your concept is just for them. You will never please everyone. 

To illustrate, here is my story   

Nearly 18 years ago (in 2001) top3 by design was born. The concept: Up to 3 products per category. The best in the world by merit of design. An edited selection of the best product from around the globe. Authentic. Innovative. 100 per cent original.

At the time of top3 by design’s inception, Google was not what it is today. Research was difficult. Consumers defaulted to brands because they provided safety and trust in what they knew. For consumers who did not know much about design, there was safety in brand names. Emerging designers struggled to get traction because they were unknown.

It is a little like when you go to a restaurant and look at the wine list but know very little about wine. You can recognize regions, or styles you like, but after that you are guessing. If you are out with a client you want to impress, you might go towards the top end of the list; if you are with close friends on a midweek meal, then you might grab something cheap and cheerful towards the bottom.

I began to notice that when people were buying product it wasn’t that different. After the style and look of the product was decided, then people selected by price: ‘if it is more expensive it must be better’ or ‘somewhere in the middle is safe, it should be ok’. More expensive does not necessarily make it better, and less expensive is not always worse.

top3 by design was born to research the product, to provide a store where customers could trust that all the product was original, that the quality was good, and therefore feel more comfortable in choosing what sparked joy, rather than worrying about quality issues. It also gave a platform for young or emerging designers to sit shoulder to shoulder with well-known international greats. 

It is important to continue to assess your concept, ensure that it is still relevant. 

Fast forward to 2018. Google means you can find just about anything. Customers can research everything they want to. So what does that mean for top3? Although the initial purpose of pre-researching product is not as relevant as it was back in 2001, the principle concept remains just as important today.

In a world where you can buy anything, what do you buy? With so much choice, top3 plays a role in editing the selection down. It is not about limiting choice, but in a world where everyone is busy it is about curating, about getting get rid of the clutter that falls outside the parameters of quality and innovation.

top3 by design’s concept is just as relevant today as it was in 2001―to provide an edited collection of the best product from around the globe, by merit of design.


innovation, design, trends + inspiration from the International Housewares Association (IHA) and the International Home + Housewares Show – www.housewares.org