PIRCH’s in-store experience picks up where Home Depot leaves off

May 25, 2016
Tom Ryan

“Where a Home Depot leaves off, that’s where we start,” Jeffery Sears, PIRCH’s CEO, said last week to The New York Times just before the opening of the luxury home appliance store’s first flagship in lower Manhattan.

Spanning 32,000-square-feet across three floors with “more than 30 interactive vignettes,” the flagship is an expansive version of the eight “experiential showrooms” it already operates at high-end malls across the country.

Playing to its upscale flavor, guests are first greeted by a barista who offers a free beverage while inquiring about which products they want to explore. But the store concept stands out in how it takes “try before you buy” to new extremes. With toilet bowls that flush, nearly all appliances in the store work in a similar way to how they would in a home.

The concept was founded in San Diego in 2009 after the co-founders were flustered by their own plumbing and appliance shopping experience.

“People just start pushing boxes of stainless steel at you. They don’t ask you how you live or how you entertain,” Mr. Sears told The Washington Post last year.

Among the highlights of the flagship:

  • In the bathroom section, guests can test 38 showerheads as well as book a private steam shower in Sanctuary, an experiential home spa;
  • In two live demo kitchens, in-house chefs continually demonstrate various culinary and outdoor appliances, from state-of-the-art steam ovens to the Evo Mongolian Grill;
  • Guests can partake in complimentary cooking classes to learn tricks for working with various appliances;
  • The Connected Loft showcases cutting-edge technology from Innit within the interactive setting of a loft apartment.

With prices as high as $11,427 for a Kohler bathtub, the concepts skew upscale, but the founders claim new homebuyers looking to make an investment will find options.

Mr. Sears told the Times, “Whether you’re a first time home buyer or building the last place you’ll ever live, the experience should be the same.”

Photo: PIRCH; Video: Crisp Video Group

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the PIRCH approach to selling appliances? Do you see opportunities for retailers to use experiential showrooms in other product categories?

"Making money off carrying other companies’ products takes a lot of thought and grit which Pirch shows can be done in a highly-commoditized market."
"Filling a niche for the 1 percent is not easy, as you have to stand out, and Pirch in my opinion seems to have the right marketing plan."
"First off, take note that I just said “hosted events.” Pirch does not advertise. "

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18 Comments on "PIRCH’s in-store experience picks up where Home Depot leaves off"

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Max Goldberg

In a commodity field, PIRCH differentiates itself from the competition by offering unique experiences. In utilizing this approach, PIRCH is not in a rush to the bottom on pricing and therefore can build more margin into each sale. Apple successfully deployed a similar strategy when it opened Apple Stores. Any retailer in a commodity business can employ experiential marketing to better its customer experience and create points of differentiation with its competition. There are many more ways to compete than just on prices.

Steve Montgomery

Based on my experience there is a sizable gap between Home Depot and PIRCH in products and customer base. Home Depot is an alternative to Sears, Best Buy, etc. PIRCH is designed more for the customers that shop Abt’s high-end departments. FYI – Abt’s large electronic sign on I294 was featuring the new $8000-plus refrigerator RetailWire discussed a couple weeks ago.

PIRCH’s products and price points require a different shopping experience and they deliver it. Should Home Depot worry? No, but it might cause Abt and other higher-end appliance seller to up their game.

Bob Phibbs

PIRCH owns the upscale brick-and-mortar retail experience when it comes to home appliances. These are the true retailers to emulate and discuss — not Apple who owns everything from the design, the hardware, to operating systems, to cult status.

The enormous space they devote to curated collections, their witty signage and their helpful approach all match the luxury market they appeal to. Eschewing the aisles of white appliances with yellow stickers touting how much you’ll save “Today!” has made them the talk of their local markets.

Making money off carrying other companies’ products takes a lot of thought and grit which PIRCH shows can be done in a highly-commoditized market.

Shep Hyken

No doubt the experiential aspect of a showroom is a draw. Something to consider, and I’m sure the good people at PIRCH have already thought about this, is that most consumers heavily research these types of purchases. They will be armed with data, as in prices and options, before entering the store. And for many consumers this experience will be part of the research process. Salespeople will have to be at their best to make sure this isn’t a stop before heading to a discount box store or an online retailer.

For the manufacturer, this is a great opportunity to showcase merchandise. Space in a PIRCH store is valuable real estate. The consumer may see and experience a toilet at PIRCH, but that doesn’t mean they will buy it there.

Kim Garretson

I like the concept but I’d like to know more, especially about vendor brand support. With such high costs for real estate and outfitting the stores, I would hope Kohler and other brands contribute much more in market development funds than they do for Home Depot and other competitors. There, of course, the dollars go to the free-standing insert ads, and other promotional marketing, with some going to fixtures and displays. Assuming that there are large checks written by the brands to PIRCH, I wonder if the brands are also taking the next step of paying for special labor on high traffic days, outfitted with Kohler and other brand logo shirts, there to assist in the experiences.

Ken Lonyai

Hmmm … Sears Roebuck owned a brand of appliance/home stores around seven or eight years ago (?) that is amazingly similar. Not sure about flushing toilets, but it had the shower head area (sans touch screen) and lots of full kitchen vignettes. Not sure why it didn’t work.

Lee Kent
Having hosted an event and attended another hosted event at PIRCH, I obviously love the brand. First off, take note that I just said “hosted events.” PIRCH does not advertise. They came into town a year or so ago and started hosting events. The space is beautiful. They have chefs from several of Atlanta’s major restaurants, as well as their own, and they let groups like the Rotary Club of Buckhead or my own CXPA host events in the space and PIRCH provides tours. The people are wowed and they come back and bring friends. One of the keys is that they know that most every person who enters their showroom is not there to buy anything, so they don’t sell! They let you imagine and experience. They show you the coolest new features like refrigerators with the inside painted black. Yep, your leftovers never looked better. They also let you know that you don’t have to purchase the high-end brand to get that. They can have it done for you. You wander around with… Read more »
Lee Kent

By the way, PIRCH insists on all caps for their name. Having hosted an event there, they are quite particular about that.

Santi Briglia

Noted and corrected, thanks Lee!

Tony Orlando

PIRCH is the Rodeo Drive of high-end home decor shopping, and there is always room to cater to the high-end shopper. From what I have seen and read about the company, its focus is to provide their customers with the very best and make the shopping environment comfortable, so kudos to them for figuring out how to do it right. Filling a niche for the 1 percent is not easy, as you have to stand out, and PIRCH in my opinion seems to have the right marketing plan to serve their needs.

Bob Amster

The luxury that being in the luxury segment affords the retailer is that one can be “cool,” one can spend more on presentation and service, and the margins allow it. The Pirch approach is very credible and can be (and probably will be) successful. The only question is: how much runway does this type of store have? You can’t put one on every corner like Duane Reade (you should pardon the proximity), you can’t even put two in most cities and there are few cities in which you can put one. But, in keeping with the Jeffery’s, Chanels, Guccis and Tom Fords, it can be done successfully. It looks like a wonderful experience just to walk in the place. Going there today …

Jerry Gelsomino

My first impression of this store is that it is VERY upscale — products have got to be more expensive than Home Depot, Lowes, Menards or even Sears. This could work in Manhattan. But the suburbs? I don’t know. It is prime for showrooming — “How would this item look in my home?”

Ken Morris
An investment in high-end home appliances is a big decision and having an opportunity to try/test the new appliances before they buy gives homeowners peace of mind that they are making the right choice. While this level of high-touch would be difficult to pull-off at Home Depot or Lowe’s, it is a smart approach for PIRCH. It is very similar to Restoration Hardware’s RH Gallery approach where they have invested in high-end real estate with design experts to create a guided selling environment. Testing products like shower heads and watching a cooking display that leverages the key features of a stove or oven makes shopping for appliances fun. Many shoppers, especially Millennials, enjoy the theater of shopping and relish anything that is entertaining. We are seeing other upscale retailers, especially in soft goods, introduce experiential showrooms and virtual mirrors to help consumers make better buying decisions and make shopping fun. As consumers get more exposure to experiential shopping, we will likely see this expand to other retail segments and eventually become something consumers expect. It… Read more »
David Slavick

Well I wouldn’t call out Home Depot as the comparative experience to be “better than.” Huge footprint, high cost per square foot, tough terms on pricing and discounting rules per MAT guidelines. I love the premium environment and it will attract those high-income customers for white goods that have equally high service expectations. Always room for a differentiated experience, they won’t need to open many stores in any one major metropolitan area. A destination location for all things home appliance similar to Abt in Chicago.

Gajendra Ratnavel

Some product categories scream for this type of setup. Home appliances, electronics, home automation products, audio visual. Audio visual has been doing this for years though. Although not a revolutionary concept, it is nice to see this being expanded to other product categories. Difficult for mid and low end retailers to do this for obvious reasons. However, technology can used to make the experience better, bringing it closer to this model in those places as well.

Kai Clarke

This is a great upscale model for demonstrating a “customer service” focused experience that goes beyond the “Apple Store,” yet fulfills a clear need in the DIY market.

Mark Price

PIRCH has taken customer experience to a new level in appliances, but in a model that is tremendously high cost. The questions are whether this model is sustainable or scalable. The number of Kohler bathtubs you have to sell to pay out such a high cost system can be daunting.

Is there a high-touch model that is not so high touch? Lose the barista and all the fancy fixtures, staff the store with knowledgeable store associates and permit customers to “try before they buy” and you probably have most of the meat.

David Zelman
1 year 6 months ago

In addition to the beautiful showrooms and fantastic experiential stores PIRCH looks like it has mastered both the sales/consumer interaction and, equally as importantly, installation and delivery. Having professionally trained installation and service technicians who show up when the consumer wants them to and who treat their customers and their homes with courtesy and respect is equally as important for the consumer experience, and PIRCH is also excelling and executing this very important function. This is going to be a very big and successful company.

"Making money off carrying other companies’ products takes a lot of thought and grit which Pirch shows can be done in a highly-commoditized market."
"Filling a niche for the 1 percent is not easy, as you have to stand out, and Pirch in my opinion seems to have the right marketing plan."
"First off, take note that I just said “hosted events.” Pirch does not advertise. "

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