The Charming Chess Shop (and what it can teach us…)

Chess lovers´ haven The Chess Shop in Greenwich Village has been around since 1972. The dedicated shop, situated a block from Washington Square Park, hosts games 24 hours a day – 365 days a year. Over the years, hoards of chess lovers have passed through its doors and framed (and non-framed) photos whisper of legendary visits of super heroes from the international chess community.

The shop clearly plays a role in gathering the chess troops, and in spreading  the chess gospel. It hosts a lot of courses for all ages in how to master the art of chess. Besides the social (gaming) business model, the shop offers the widest range of chess sets you can imagine. This makes The Chess Shop a great place to pick up a gifts for chess loving friends. The chess shop is longtail retail at its best. Other retailers take note from The Chess shop on a couple of things:

1. Generous opening hours have a lot of beneficial psychological spin-off effects. Socializing with and in the store “after hours” increases the the degree of perceived intimacy between the customers and the products of your brand. Being in a store after hours automatically transitions your store to a living room, hence, making it living store! Of course this holds true for first movers, and not for the you guys at the bandwagon…

2. Your shop/shops can be a social hub and still sell stuff – In the long run its the ability of mastering the social hub element that will determine sales performance. The character of the retail offering is changing and the retail business models along with it. Stuff no longer necessarily hold dominion over Social. Not getting it? Try to come up with some alternative models of interaction between the store and the customers rather than the predictable look&choose&pay&gohome. Throw the elements around a bit and think about a alternative models (the old one is becoming a tad boring…). Although the assortment can be constantly renewed and hence restart the look&choose&pay it seems evident that that somewhat hysterical loop can not spin much faster than it is already. Hence, something else need to shift in the retail formula, and i´m not talking about simply transferring of the old model to the digital sphere – that aint new or very interesting in the long run.

3. A new set of new customer-centric social performance ratios need to be developed, implemented and measured. How to define these? Focus on trying to capture the emotional pay-off of a store visit, rather than the financial one. As online purchases and potential increases, the successful brand needs to focus on the  inspirational and truly soulful dimensions of the physical store. Give your customers that – and they will engage and commit to your brand in the digital sphere. If a brand succeeds in intensifying the physical store experience, and leverage from that via sales on online platforms, then the need for wast retail spaces could be reduced (and rent costs along with it). Physical store efficiency ratios need revision and retailers need a holistic perspective on physical and digital. Why not simply consider the physical store as one big fitting room and the web as the check-out?


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