Execs Defend Traditional Stores at Financo

Execs Defend Traditional Stores at Financo
From left: Lew Frankfort, Danny Meyer, moderator Sagra Maceira de Rosen, Paul Blum, Eric Wiseman

Bricks are still as important as clicks, said executives on the panel of the Financo Forum Monday evening.

During the event at the Harmonie Club in New York, the conversation centered on how stores are the best opportunity to showcase a brand’s entire story and connect it to the consumer’s lifestyle. The customer experience remains the main draw to stores as well, they said, with top-notch service being the differentiator between the online and in-person shopping experience.

This year’s panel included Paul Blum, the new CEO of Juicy Couture; Lew Frankfort, chairman and CEO of Coach Inc.; Eric Wiseman, chairman, president and CEO of VF Corp.; and Danny Meyer, founder and CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group.

“The synergies between the digital and physical spaces are limitless,” said Frankfort, who added that both contribute to what he called “a 3-D brand experience.”

In fact, Wiseman added, there is ample opportunity for brands to improve on their stores because of the delta between consumers’ desires and retailers’ ability to cater to them.

Relating an anecdote about once being in a store — not one of his — and being told by a customer that she once enjoyed shopping there but no longer does, he noted, “Consumers are really impatient … [and] not many retailers are great at delighting customers.”

Nevermind that mobile and online’s contribution to total sales continues to skyrocket, executives believe in a holistic approach to the retail experience.

“Access to mobile and digital is a revolution, [but the issue is] how to change a traditional store’s environment because it is still very important. It just has to change,” said Blum, adding that he plans to leverage Juicy Couture’s young, global consumer following to harness the power of social media in creative marketing efforts going forward.

Wiseman also called out Lululemon Athletica and Apple as brands that operate great stores that “use their square footage to engage people for something other than selling,” such as workout corners and yoga workshops in the former case, and free Internet surfing in the latter.

Meanwhile, hospitality king Meyer shared the importance of tailoring experiences to consumer needs, amid lighthearted comments about not having to worry that his restaurants would lose revenue to people trying to taste food over the Internet.

Meyer, who successfully runs a range of restaurants selling cuisine ranging from $5 cheeseburgers to $120 tasting menus, quipped, “Improvisation is hospitality [in the sense that] one size fits one.”