Am I too old for Hollister ?

07.12.09

Partly out of curiosity and partly driven by my 16 year old son, I ended up in the new Hollister store in Milton Keynes at the weekend.

Much to his embarassment, my first comment was how the store broke many so called rules of store design. You can't see anything from the outside, the store interior is very dark so you walk around aimelessly until you can figure out how the store is segmented, lighting is limited to occasional spot lights on products which means you have to be a contortionist if you want to check the colour or design of the item in your hand, the music is so loud you can't hear the (verry attractive) cashier, the queue for the changing rooms positively discourages you from trying anything on...

Yet two things happened.  My son loved it (incidentally so do all his friends) and I ended up buying him a new top...

At over 40 I am clearly not target market, but I think I can safely say that this is not the most effective retail environment I have come a across as a place to shop.

However, I think one needs to look at this Hollister store from a different perspective. There is much talk these days about experiential marketing but only a few brands manage to deliver a truly different experience at retail which really connects with their customers.

Looking at it from an experiential angle, suddenly this store design starts to make a lot of sense. The lack of view from the inside adds mystery, stimulates curiosity. The trade mark, partially clothed male models at the entrance reinforce the idea of youth, health and vitality. The focused internal lighting draws the product towards you in an almost intimate way.  The relative darkness somehow gives you more confidence. And the music is great.

So, if I was to buy something again it is quite likely I would do it from their website, but I have to admit I am very likely to return to the store just for the experience.

In fact, with the ever increasing threat of the internet to bricks and mortar retailers, one could argue that Hollister is being very smart by creating a unique and differentiated brand experience at retail, supported by an efficient online offering.

Hugues Audouard

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