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Dominique Fournier: “There is nothing more annoying than store clones”

today Dec 10, 2012
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The continued strong growth of e-commerce opens up a range of questions. What will become of brick-and-mortar stores? What can be done? Many brands and retailers have opted for a multi-channel solution, which means the future of distribution will be all products mixed together for all sectors. Dominique Fournier, co-founder of the White Sky agency, has one foot in America (he is Canadian) and another in Europe. He shared his thoughts on the issue with FashionMag Premium.

Dominique Fournier, White Sky Agency

FashionMag.com: E-commerce is still growing. Do you think it is the death knell of physical stores?

Dominique Fournier:Physical stores have good reason to both exist and operate. But the first question to ask is why is the Internet being used to find and purchase products. Everything is accessible, easy. With a few clicks, you can access a huge selection. You can look without being observed. Everything is simple. And it is easy to purchase with a credit card. In comparison, most stores today are stuck with a necessarily limited inventory, sellers who ask you if you need information, store architecture that remains static, at least for a certain time, with display tables, shelves against the walls, the cash register always in the same place, etc.

FM: You are making a rather negative assessment of physical stores but they still represent the majority of sales.

DF: One should not focus on today’s reality but analyze trends. In this regard, the United States has always had a good head start on Europe. And overseas, physical stores are increasingly becoming showrooms where consumers view products, the ambiance and then purchase onsite or on the Internet. The first one to understand that was Steve Jobs with the Apple Stores. When he opened the first one in 2001, what did he tell visitors? Enter, try the devices, look, have fun. We know how successful that became. With this strategy, Apple created a true shopping mode reflex.

FM: What should now be done with clothing stores, for example?

DF: We must invent the store in 3D, where consumers can experience it completely. That can mean to have your picture taken with the product, post it on Facebook or just send it to friends to hear what they think of the product. We have to make stores places to experience life by better integrating them into their neighborhood. There is nothing more annoying than store clones, the same from one neighborhood to the next or from one city to the next. For example, the new Starbucks are becoming social meeting places. In the Wall Street stores, finance is discussed, in Brooklyn it's about music, etc. And the retailer must be a driving force. The clothing stores or other types of stores must create moments of life. They could organize exhibitions, promote books, organize evening events based on a theme. They have to attract customers with something other than inventory. Give them something they cannot get on the Internet, emotion, real exchange. This means investing in training for vendors, developing network clients. Why not try meetings between customers with similar tastes through various events? This could even be done between stores in the same neighborhood. This would give stores a way to avoid becoming trivial. The relationship could also be fostered through the Internet to create the desire to come into stores. For example, the French BHV department store organizes a barter event, which is highly successful. There is a lot of work to be done but work that is no doubt exciting and crucial to the future of retailers.

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