I stopped shopping at my ex-favorite chain store Chico's some time ago. Their catalog still arrives in my PO Box, but when I walk by the store I rarely venture in. I haven't bought anything there in maybe two years. I read with passing interest in the Wall Street Journal that "Chico's Falls Out of Fashion With Investors" (7/28/06): "Chico's shares have fallen more than 50% since reaching a high Feb 22 of $49.40."
Yesterday, I'm walking along the European-styled street promenade at Santana Row across from my new retail chain favorite (I'm more of a boutique gal), Anthropologie, and the pair strolling in front of me start a converation as they walk past a potted profusion of lavender agapanthus and the Crepe & Brioche French Artisan Bakery's stall at the organic farmer's market.
The thirty-something woman turns to her friend and gasps, "I am dying to, but I cannot go into Anthropologie!" She's resisting the urge to browse its "latticework chaise lounges, velvet patchwork pillows, ornate birdcages, leather-bound books, sari fabrics, teak benches...vintage-inspired cardigan sweaters...Chinese pajamas and cobwebby camisoles."
I feel young at heart these days and, yet, when I walk into Anthropologie, I feel younger still. A sense of wonder and enchantment welcomes you as soon as you open the door. Music streams, a couple sits side-by-side on an antique sofa immersed in a coffee-table book of Leonardo da Vinci's complete works, a mother and her teenage daughter with their coiffeured black poodle buy a whimsical sun dress evocative of Provence for Mom.
Chico's tends more towards a baby boomer crowd and I'm right on the cusp of Gen-X and Baby Boomer. Yet I spot many women both younger and older than what the retail critics cite as Anthropologie's so-called demographic of 30-45 years. But then again Anthropologie could care less about demographics.
As a marketer, I adore Anthropologie. They do a masterful job of making sure every store is the same, yet different. “The same, yet different” retailing strategy is something we strived to do at Starbucks and because of me, this article found its way on many a chair at Starbucks’ HQ. In fact, I still freely share this article with retailers wanting marketing advice.
As a human (whom happens to be a woman, customer and marketer and much more), I adore Anthropologie. Here's just one reason why:
"One of our core philosophies," explains Anthropologie president Glen Senk, "is that we spend the money that other companies spend on marketing to create a store experience that exceeds people's expectations. We don't spend money on messages -- we invest in execution."
Experience the Message. Intimately Know Your Market. "The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous," said Peter Drucker.
The Fast Company article's author totally understands the wonder and essence of Anthopologie. This article gives insight into far far more than simply retailing. I totally wholeheartedly recommend it.
And you gotta love any story that begins like this:
My mother used to use a phrase, "shop like a Frenchwoman," that I never really understood until the summer we spent a month in Normandy. I was 15, and my parents, along with my aunt (my mother's twin) and her family, had rented an old farmhouse on the top of a hill in the rolling countryside. My schoolgirl French was deemed the most passable of the four cousins', so I was the translator for the women's daily trips to the markets of the little town of Manerbe. There I began to get the picture.
If the twins couldn't exactly talk like Frenchwomen, they could cook with the best of them -- and that started with their approach to ingredients. They would pick over baby potatoes, inspect haricots verts for color and crispness, smell herbs for freshness, and poke and prod everything within reach in the outdoor stalls. They'd move from charcuterie to boulangerie , passing over the pâté for some particularly succulent chickens or pointing out the exact baguette they wanted. As often as not, an unexpected or particularly fresh item would result in a surprise twist in the menu.
It wasn't efficient, but we usually came away with a story: a conversation with one of the shopkeepers, a motorbike run amok in the marketplace, a circle back to replace the tarte Tatin devoured in the car on the way home. And, inevitably, the smells, sounds, and textures of the market seeped into our dinner, adding an intense flavor.
These days, for the most part, shopping like a Frenchwoman is a lost art, having vanished somewhere between the sommelier at Costco and the organic arugula now available in virtually every supermarket in America. The multisensory ritual, with its open-ended sense of discovery and the thrill of the hard-won find, has given way to a uniformity of style -- and a stylish uniformity.
And then there is Anthropologie...
images Yeah, it's a sleeper hit alright. With no advertising, Anthropologie's reliance on its store experience, intimacy with its customer, art, "high touch, not high tech" (says their architect Ron Pompei), evocative soulful catalogs and word-of-mouth makes it seem uber-radically traditionalist. Radical traditionalist, like me. Images from their website.