How to Be a Great, Not Just Good, Retailer

Why it’s important to create a distinctive retail experience for customers

Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes

We just got back from “Sin City” and as it turns out, what happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas. Of course, in a city where more is more, if you aren’t doing something special, you’ll probably fall short, and no one will talk about you anyway. A lot of Vegas retail is good, not great. The great retailers are the ones that embrace the opportunity of the location, take risks, and dare we say, roll the dice. The best retail in Vegas plays with a theme, has a clear understanding of what makes them unique, and exacerbates those qualities to become an attraction, not just a store. You know you have a great retailer when the words you’d use to describe Las Vegas – over the top, larger than life, surreal, only in Vegas, giant adult amusement park, etc.– are how you’d describe the store too.

Still confused? Keep reading for a full breakdown of what NOT to do and what TO do in Vegas (as a retailer, of course). And for all you readers whose brands aren’t currently and don’t have any plans to be anywhere near Las Vegas but still want to push the limits of conventional retail, you’re not off the hook – these lessons are for you too.

What NOT to do in Vegas

Simply put, don’t do the same thing you’d do in Ohio. In Vegas, the shopper expectation is different because they are in a different mindset and setting. During our visit, we noticed that plenty of the stores were lovely, but they weren’t landmarks. Take Lacoste at Forum Shops, for example. The store was beautifully designed and impeccably maintained, but it still felt just okay. It was missing the entertainment factor that you’d expect in The City That Never Sleeps.

A second detractor – requiring app download to enter. We don’t like calling people out, but Urban Necessities required people to download their app with no incentive for doing so other than entering the store. We stopped filling out the profile after the fourth page of requested information – talk about horrific CX!

Last on the list of what NOT to do in Vegas (and retail in general) is abide by the laws of reality. Area15’s OmegaMart is a relatively expensive, paid attraction that is essentially a store full of fake stuff with a fun house and bar inside and a gift shop to tour afterward. We felt like Xhibit was trying to punk us when we left the gift shop and were presented with two (yes, two) additional gift shops (throwback MTV reference). It felt like they were saying, “Hey, we heard you liked gift shops, so we put two gift shops right outside our gift shop!” The layers of ways to spend money are absolutely absurd, but we’re not even mad about the money we spent to experience it.

What TO do in Vegas

First, honor your product. Planet13 just opened the world’s largest dispensary in LV, the entertainment capital of the world. From the 18-foot outdoor water feature to the interactive LED elements, 3D projection, interactive laser art, and VW van hotbox simulation – this place is designed to knock your socks off. In addition to the cannabis superstore, the venue offers windows into the 14,000 sq ft active production facility where edibles, drinkables, smokables, vapables, etc. are being produced by both humans and robots. When they’re not working, the robots show off for visitors by fighting with lightsabers, cracking open beverages, etc. Naturally, there’s a munchie-crushing, greenhouse-inspired, beautifully designed restaurant with artisan dishes and cocktails too. The superstore itself offers endless visual merchandising of all the goods and a consultative service model where everything is safely stored in back of house. Although certainly not a destination for regular cannabis customers, the space offers a fun, experiential and de-stigmatizing introduction to a dispensary for those who may be new to the industry.

Second, push the limits of form and function. Our reference here is Culture Kings. The sheer volume of inventory and imaginative merchandising in the store creates an extremely powerful visual and backdrop to the retail space. An impactful yet functional display of hats and accessories showcase their extensive product selection yet remains functional for storing backstock and capitalizing on the vertical space. Culture Kings’ expression of streetwear is an excellent example of relying on product beauty rather than graphics, murals, or other retail tropes.

Culture Kings succeeded from a digital expression standpoint as well. Instead of using large display monitors, digital graphics are integrated into the architecture and overall interior design. Bridging the gaps between this multi-level retailer, a siren-like LED panel graphics program activates the stairs and egress rather than competes with it. Playing with the hierarchy, sometimes these LED graphics are the hero, and sometimes they’re the backdrops, tucked away in the stairs, corridors and dressing rooms. Working in concert with mirror-wrapped columns, this store presents a strong POV on what’s cool while creating a stage for product to shine and environment to elevate.

Last on the list of what TO do in Vegas is to leverage smoke and mirrors with smart use of materials and lighting. Again, we’ll use Area 15’s Omega Mart as a first-rate example (if you can ignore the aggressive business model and gaping hole in your wallet). Their ethereal displays and out-of-this-world experiences are all grounded in clever and hidden executions of technology, lighting, and materiality. The interactive moments of the Omega Mart demonstrate a masterful use of the natural properties of glass, acrylic, fabric, and other common materials in an extra-terrestrial manner. Lighting plays a huge role as well; the designers have seamlessly incorporated projection mapping, illumination and other simple techniques in ways that leave guests and patrons asking, “how did they do this?” This is a text-book case of how to create an incredible effect within a very reasonable budget by relying on product expertise and execution rather than fancy technology.

It’s a safe bet that the Vegas environment isn’t fit for every brand. If you are going to try your luck at making it in this neon city, be innovative and go big. Keep in mind that although it may never be as important as it is in Las Vegas, creating an interesting, exciting, distinctive retail experience is important for any retailer looking to curate an immersive environment for guests. So, regardless of where you are in the world, keep pushing your brand to experiment with new technology, use of space, and forms of brand expression, and differentiate yourself from all the good, but not great, retailers out there.

Subscribe to Wayfind

Sign up to get trends and insights from the best thinkers at WD delivered direct to your inbox.

Refer a Friend

Use this link to refer a friend to Wayfind

Share on Social

Share Wayfind on your social networks

Back to Wayfind