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I was called in mid-July by the Belgian TV Channel RTBF to explain what concept stores are. The 3-minute television report was filmed –obviously- in a concept store located in Brussels : SMETS. I went back to the store later to shoot some photos because it has pretty much all the attributes of a concept store. As I explained on TV a “concept store” is, by definition, a place where new ideas are put together (“a concept”) with a the purpose of selling (and making profits of course). This innovation touch is rooted in the very DNA of every concept store and I can see several layers of innovation.

Several stores in one place

Concept stores have a tendency to propose a global experience to retain the shopper and make him/her spend as much time as possible. This translates for instance in the presence of a restaurant, a bar or specialized corners in the store itself. SMETS proposes all of this with a very well rated restaurant, a bar, and obviously a very large store on 2 levels.

Products are arranged differently

Concept stores leverage new methods to exhibit products. Rather than categorizing products in the store, concept stores tend to mix the categories and put the object in action. Whereas traditional stores have several exemplars of the same products and display them vertically (on racks), concept stores limit the number of exemplars (to one generally) and also use horizontal surfaces to display them.

The products themselves are highly differentiated

The very aim of a concept store is also to offer an exclusive selection of hard-to-find products. SMETS for instance offers a wide range of products, from 5€ to 80000€; although not all products are equally exclusive, one can say that all of them are not widely distributed and are therefore difficult to find. SMETS, like other concept stores, offers a one-stop-shop for all those rarities and expects sales from cross-selling

 

Advice for your marketing strategy

The recipes used by the concept store to differentiate themselves from other retail points are not reserved to an elite. Entrepreneurs with little money can also be different. Our market research assignments show regularly that new stores are created (very small ones sometimes) which propose one or two of the above differentiation factors. It’s easy to do but it has to be planned already in the business plan phase; otherwise it won’t be executed.

 

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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