Retail columnist Winston Wright addresses some of the biggest hits and misses from brick-and-mortar in the last few weeks.

Despite the threats posed by e-commerce, a reported 85% of purchases are still made in stores. But plenty of physical retail experiences leave much to be desired, and maintaining a footprint is more challenging than ever. We stack up recent brick-and-mortar hits and misses in this first column of R³ × W³—Retail Ranting & Raving by our new and regular columnist Winston Wm. Wright.


Kudos to Dyson (Dyson Ltd.) on being the latest of the VERY FEW manufacturing names to have successfully brought its brand to life in retail. The New York Fifth Avenue Flagship, which opened in mid-December, has gotten its land legs and is a savory visit. The design, visual communications and person-to-person interaction is what building brands at retail is all about.

The praise is also for Dyson's successful extension of the design ethic into select big boxes. Primarily done with product presentation, the elegance and simplicity of the fixtures speaks perfectly to aesthetic of the product. And best of all (in the cases I’ve seen) the product works on the floor. The fans waft. In many cases, the vacuums inhale. The blow-dryers do.

Nice work, Mr. Dyson.

And the way this brand appears in those select big boxes reminds me of a mid-century retail practice that must be rethought and considered for deployment (or at least experimentation) as experiential retail.


With the exception of the home improvement giants (though there’s work to be done there, too) generally speaking, the big box experience sucks (NOT breaking news)… particularity in the CE and home accessories spaces. The experience is nothing short of overwhelming. These stores are nothing but glorified warehouses that somehow allow me the access to stock.

Do I really need 10 facings, 12 products deep, of the same 10-inch sauté pan? Especially when I can't reach half of them, or I can’t get to them because the restocking ladder is in the way when they’re being replenished. Drive-aisle interrupters don't highlight special product, they just segregate it from its home in another row of fixtures crammed on the floor. If the traffic width comes close to meeting ADA requirements, that's the only excuse needed to put more in the way. Finding what you’re looking for is like the proverbial needle in a haystack.

In all the reports I’ve read and studies I’ve devoured and numbers I’ve crunched, roughly 85% of all purchasers will visit a brick-and-mortar location in some phase of the purchase funnel.

Why aren’t these visits decent, seamless or, god forbid, enjoyable experiences?

I guess the jury’s still out on Nordstrom’s West Hollywood ‘Store without Merchandise” (covered by PSFK in September 2017) and I’m eager to hear consumer feedback and learn actual results. There have been reports, rumors, announcements and NDAs for years about big box and large footprint stores studying, considering and developing new format stores that will take the challenge head on.

Where are they? Where are the Selfridges and Takamashiyas who lead retail in recent decades with brand-supported installations in one central location to build THEIR brands in a convenient and elegant way? (Hear my comments  PSFK’s ‘Translating International Retail Innovation' podcast here.)

Retailers who are studying it—researching it, thinking about it—need to just do it (pardon the use of the line, but it’s appropriate).

My challenge to the Big Boxes:

There are millions of square feet of retail space available in this country right now… a lot of it in the same city or evaporating mall somewhere. Take a category or a brand, or even your own brand, and build an environment around it free of distraction—one that’s focused on an experience that leverages convenience, technology, selection, ease and delight. Take it for a ride. See what happens. Take the money you've allocated for one flight of online interactive and invest in real retail space and see what happens. Offer something to the 85% that will make them want to come back again and again.

Personally, I’m weary of fighting my way through your warehouse.

Winston Wright is a brand consultant in New York City. He has a passion for branding and brand communications, particularly how brands show themselves directly to the consumer. With a depth of experience in retail, having worked for Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, over the past 20 years he has worked on “bringing brands to life” globally for Apple, Nokia and Jawbone. Most recently, he was on the Brand Consumer Marketing team at AOL.