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Blog: Companion Shopping

New twists on in-store amenities are a welcome enticement in 2012

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Holiday celebrations aside, this last week was a busy time. For starters, there was all that time for spending gift cards, taking advantage of half-price sales and exchanging unwanted gifts for the things I really wanted.

During one of my trips, accompanied by my mother and two kids, I ventured into a new clothing store. And as I headed to the perimeter to check out that cute skirt hanging on the wall, my mom followed my 7-year-old to the back of the store where he had spotted a computer monitor and gaming system just waiting to be played. The younger sibling made a beeline for a jar filled with free animal crackers. Later, when we walked out, both my mom and son agreed, “That’s the smartest store ever.”

It made me recall a few years ago when Macy’s upgraded its fitting room areas with comfortable couches and flatscreens tuned into the latest game. Recently, I saw a story about IKEA taking that concept one step further and testing a concept called “Manland” at a store in Sydney, Australia. Similar to its play area for children, this men’s-only space comes complete with Xbox consoles, pinball machines, televised sports and free hot dogs. Girlfriends and wives are given pagers that buzz after 30 minutes, a friendly reminder not to forget to pick up their male companions on the way out the door with a shopping cart filled with Swedish-designed delights.

A video on www.dailytelegraph.com.au showed smiling men relaxing around a TV while their amused partners took off to shop. The reporter asked a store employee who she thought benefitted the most – the women who were free to shop minus a complaining husband or the men who didn’t miss being dragged around the store?

How about both? If the effort is about getting shoppers in the store, keeping them there longer and having them walk out the door smiling, then why not appeal to the shopper willing to open her wallet and the ones who might otherwise be begging her to leave – after just one more turn playing Mario Bros.
 

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