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The Evolution of Experience

By reinventing the in-store customer model, Pirch earns the 2016 VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year award

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Named in memory of retail industry observer, motivational speaker, author and longtime VMSD magazine columnist Peter Glen, the annual VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year award recognizes the retailer that best exemplifies his three core retail values: innovation, service and intelligence.

This year’s winner, Pirch (San Diego), was announced on Sept. 15 during the 16th annual International Retail Design Conference (IRDC), and Chairman and Co-founder Jeffery Sears graciously accepted the award on Pirch’s behalf.

Born from the notion that moments and experiences are more important to consumers than any material possession, Pirch’s brand promise from the outset was to provide the customer with a vastly different shopping experience than the category norm. Originally established in 2009 by James Stuart and Sears, its “try before you buy” approach in an experiential showroom setting has allowed shoppers to focus on how they live, rather than what they need to purchase for their homes.

BREAKING THE MOLD
Pirch’s experiential concept is supported by its showrooms, which allow shoppers to browse its collections and try products hands-on. Its vignettes are meticulously curated, and every appliance is fully powered and operational. Water flows from every faucet, nozzle and showerhead – and yes, even the toilets flush.

“The design of our stores is critical,” said Sears in an exclusive interview with VMSD. “[It] informs the customer journey and, ultimately, the experience for our guests. Our goal every day is to create a place that one can trust … We are tied to a complex residential construction industry and, by default, that is not a perfect world.”

Though there are trained personnel to educate customers in store, Pirch does not sell design services. Instead, the retailer chooses to focus on its core competencies and partner with residential designers, architects and builders to plan and execute a project.

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“An advantage is our ability to properly interpret the design direction from the professional community, for their client, in order to deliver a superior experience without wasting time or duplicating resources,” Sears said. “It is about being a trusted mentor, a partner in our customers’ process, and being there for them through the life of the product.”

ACTIONS OVER WORDS
Pirch’s distinct corporate culture is driven by its Elements of Joy “manifesto,” filled with uncommon advice from a large corporation like, “Go on an adventure.” The retailer understands the impact that happy, empowered employees can have on its business, urging employees and customers alike to “live joyfully.”

“Our training is about investing in the people who represent the culture we define,” Sears told Forbes magazine. “The emotion of the stores emanates from the smiles on people’s faces and the passion they have about serving others. You can’t sustain a culture unless you have a foundation from the training first.”

It’s a strategy that resonates with consumers – to the tune of $3000 per square foot at its most recent SoHo, New York, location, according to Fortune magazine.

TO THE FUTURE AND BEYOND
This past May, Pirch unveiled a new 32,000-square-foot flagship in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Featuring its atypical experiential model, shoppers are able to interact with high-end kitchen, bath and outdoor products – they can even set a special private appointment to try out a shower. (Read the full feature in VMSD’s September 2016 issue.)

The company is poised for the future, and recently welcomed new CEO and President Andrea Dorigo, the former president of eyewear brand Oakley (Foothill Ranch, Calif.), a subsidiary of Luxottica (Milan). Sears has moved into a new role as chairman of the company he co-founded. “The greatest compliment to a young, explosive team of people is the ability to attract great talent,” he says.

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In essence, Pirch represents a vision of modern retail that’s exceedingly relevant to today’s consumers as they search for an elevated experience that compels them to return.

Thank you to Fitch (Columbus, Ohio), which designed the stores shown, for providing photography used in this feature.

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