Should stores entertain bored tag-along shoppers?

Source: CTI News
Jul 28, 2017
Tom Ryan

While some U.S. stores have comfy chairs and couches available for tired or restless shoppers, a mall in China has installed “husband storage” pods for men who would rather play video games than shop with their wives or girlfriends.

Shanghai’s Global Harbor mall is equipped with four glass pods, each with a leather chair and gaming console to play retro video games from the nineties. The pods placed around the mall have been operating for nearly a month as part of a free trial, but users will soon be required to scan a QR code with their phones and pay a small fee for each session.

The arrival of the pods has caused a frenzy on social media in China. Many asked why husbands and boyfriends can’t visit other stores or find other ways to engage at a mall other than playing video games. Some likened the new offerings to adult daycare.

On the positive side, several men interviewed by the Chinese publication, The Paper, spoke favorably of the gaming pods. Wrote Matthew Humphries for, “If the pods get really popular I can see banks of them being installed just like in internet cafes. Then they can be networked together to allow for multiplayer gaming.”

Some women saw the pods as a path to guilt-free shopping. According to BBC, one user said that the pods “give these men an incentive to go shopping, and to pick up the bill.”

Others wondered whether the needs of those tagging along for shopping should be addressed more by shopping centers.

Writing for Newsweek, Claire Shaffer noted that an NPR report from 2006 related how some stores were catering to men with snacks and seating. Chinese malls earlier in this decade explored “husband cloakrooms” with seating, TVs and smoking sections. Ms. Shaffer felt that “husband storage” pods would work for the elderly and moms with kids as well. She wrote, “Not an entirely bad concept within a mall — everyone could use a break sometimes from the noise and chaos of capitalism.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a net benefit in malls and stores entertaining those who tag along with others on shopping trips? How would you address the matter?

"Think climbing walls, miniature golf, chair massages."
"Get the bored shopper engaged. Even the small aspects that make the trip to the mall a better experience are important..."
"… only if they want the shopping partner to stay in the store longer!"

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13 Comments on "Should stores entertain bored tag-along shoppers?"

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Bob Amster

Retailers can either give tag-alongs something to do or something to buy (on impulse). What retailers cannot do is to ignore them because to do so may negatively impact how long the true buyer remains in the store.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Providing value or at least minimizing the exit drive of the co-shopper serves the primary patron and the retailer. Guest seating, reading and toys have huge benefit but integrating the co-shopper into the experience has the added benefit of teaching them how to shop and inspiring their engagement in satisfying their needs and wants. Investing in reducing the co-shopper’s perceived dwell time is worth some focused consideration by the retailer to answer the question, what’s in it for us? The value of the investment quickly emerges. Hint: start with the traffic and conversion impact of doing nothing.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

“Husband storage pods” … Malls can do this, yes. For stores it should be more in context.

Malls need to do anything to generate traffic these days. More importantly, they need to make that traffic stick. The longer the real shoppers roam stores, the more likely they are to discover something and potentially purchase.

A store environment is different. Generating sales per square foot is still a key consideration. It would be far better in a store environment to have experiences relevant to what the store sells. For example, most department stores sell furniture or furnishings — so why not have a play and discovery area for smart home and connected devices?

By the way, entertaining tag-along shoppers is not a male gender thing. My time and purchases in photography stores goes up exponentially if my wife can find something relevant for her (e.g., in hands-on areas related to framing or decorating).

Art Suriano

I see this as an opportunity for malls to consider having a store or stores that cater to men. Most men don’t mind tagging along shopping, but their interests are different. Through the years, malls have leased space to too many specialty apparel stores that cater mostly to women. So when the man wanders off, in most malls there aren’t too many stores to hold his interest. If the woman tags along and goes off on her own, it’s usually the direct opposite. So as malls today continue to evolve with new concepts, I can see an opportunity for some stores that appeal to men’s interest as in sports, entertainment, foods, etc. I think this would be more beneficial than filling the tag-along’s time playing video games on tablets. Most importantly, it should provide more business for the mall.

Charles Dimov

Get the bored shopper engaged. Even the small aspects that make the trip to the mall a better experience are important and need to be explored. Making the shopping trip seem fun, or at least not painful, is an important step. Give shoppers options, give them flexibility and give them an experience they will talk about (and want to repeat)!

Gene Detroyer

… only if they want the shopping partner to stay in the store longer!

Lee Kent

Smart malls and stores will think outside the box to entertain the tag-alongs. Think climbing walls, miniature golf, chair massages. You get the picture. Make the mall a destination for the whole family.

For my 2 cents.

Cate Trotter

Shopping malls should offer something for everybody — whether that’s a store, restaurant or additional service. It should be that a family, a couple, a solo shopper, anyone of any age can visit and know that there’s something in it for them. This is what will keep them coming back. Offering additional experiences is a smart way to differentiate these spaces from online (where so many of the same stores and products are available). For the average store I think it’s not possible to please everyone, but then not everyone is your target audience (and that’s where you should be focusing your attention).

Ralph Jacobson

I think the bigger question is completely social: Why are these husbands even going with their wives/girlfriends if they have absolutely no interest in what their partners’ needs are? But that is a subject for another website, I’m sure. I do realize that there are legitimate reasons for tag-along shoppers. So why wouldn’t retailers jump on the bandwagon and create interesting activities that drive incremental impulse sales? Don’t just stuff them in pods with video games. Jeepers!

Ed Rosenbaum

OK! So I am a tag along with my wife. Sometimes there is no choice. I like it best when she goes in a non department store to “look” for something, and I can sit comfortably doing whatever while she finds those something’s. I am not sure if we were in a mall or larger department store if I would be one to go to that “men’s store” to wait for her.

Kenneth Leung

Most women’s clothing boutiques have the “man chair” with magazines where the tag-along can relax. When I was in Nordstrom in Dallas years ago (I think it was the Galleria) they had a tiny sports bar inside the store (looks like a giant playhouse with its own roof and doors) and it was filled with male tag-alongs. It was like daycare except men waiting for their companion to pick them up after shopping.

The key is to find something for the tag alongs to do and maybe spend a few dollars on services like food, spa services, or in this case, a gaming pod.

Ed Dunn
23 days 22 hours ago

The presence of a Lego store at the mall may be the best solution. When the wife comes back from shopping, the husband can show off what he just built.

Ken Morris

It is a fact that we all like to be entertained and while wives or girlfriends are enjoying the theater of shopping, it makes sense to provide entertainment for their spouse or significant other. The “husband pods” are probably just the start of a bigger trend to make malls a destination for men as a means to increase the frequency and duration of female shopping trips.

If the pod concept takes off, look for malls to expand to bigger entertainment options such as laser tag, drone racing, golf simulators, etc. The reality is that retailers need to change the game … what makes the Apple Store so engaging is that there is something for everyone. A tag-along mecca where entertainment and education meet. Retailers need to wake up to this concept.

"Think climbing walls, miniature golf, chair massages."
"Get the bored shopper engaged. Even the small aspects that make the trip to the mall a better experience are important..."
"… only if they want the shopping partner to stay in the store longer!"

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