Dyson believes in showroom stores

Photo: Dyson
Apr 16, 2018
Lee Peterson

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine filled with insights, trends and predictions from the retail and foodservice experts at WD Partners.

The Dyson flagship showroom store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is a product playhouse for appliance lovers and hair dryer fanatics. Bet you didn’t even know there were such people.

In a heavily trafficked area on Fifth Avenue, the 3,200-square-foot space is home to an interactive experience where consumers can test and try Dyson products.

Book a free appointment and try out their supersonic hairdryer that retails at $399 (the sticker shock is real). After drying your hair, spill a few Cheerios and test out any vacuum you want on an array of floor samples, from carpet to hardwood. You can even cool yourself on a hot summer day before a museum-like display of bladeless fans.

Imagine walking into your local Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target or Walmart and spilling a handful of Cheerios to test out a vacuum. The chances are slim.

That’s not to say Dyson isn’t trying to turn mass-market retail into a showroom channel. In 2017, “Dyson Demo Experiences” were opened in at least 90 Best Buy stores (a.k.a. a store-within-a-store) with spaces ranging from 40- to 400-square-feet.

Over the last two years, Dyson has aggressively pushed to control how customers try its products within lavish flagship stores while creating gathering spaces that people actually want to go to instead of shopping online.

Another thing Dyson is doing right? Customer service. In Dyson Showroom stores, there are no cashiers. Instead, “specialist assistants” answer questions and facilitate demos in addition to helping with check out.

Before the flagship strategy, Dyson had mostly sold its products online, including on Amazon and through other third-party retailers. Opening at least 25 showroom-like stores in 2017 alone, Dyson’s successful retail expansion has coincided with a double-digit rise in overall sales.

For brands still sitting on the sidelines, unwilling to invest in showroom stores, the financial success of Dyson’s store expansion proves such investments do pay off.

We recommend exploring how this is done as soon as possible.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the Dyson showroom model of low inventory, high experience best suited for other high-end items or does it have applications for items sold at lower price points as well? What’s holding back more such interactive experiences at retail?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Not many brands have such an innovative brand portfolio as Dyson. This is key, as the brand needs to offer something unique. "
"The math would be very hard to justify for brands that live in the lower price point realm."
"Look at the publicity this store has generated. The store itself will reach a limited number of customers, but the press reports will reach many more."

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "Dyson believes in showroom stores"

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Mark Ryski

Dyson seems to be the Apple of premium vacuums and their high-touch retail concept suits their brand well. I think this strategy works especially well for premium brands, but it could also work for items with lower price points. I believe that we will see more of these concepts in the future, however, I suspect that some of the trepidation regarding this approach is simply related to cost and ROI.

Bob Phibbs

Admittedly, being located on Fifth Avenue makes success a fait accompli due to the sheer volume of humans walking by each hour. It is right on-trend for showing how the whole model of vacuum stores need to evolve — elevating the experience instead of expecting shoppers to push aside units that look alike to find one for them while a clerk waits to take their money. That said, it is a fairly severe dark universe their store embodies — the better for spotlighting their machines, no doubt. Curated selection and engaging selling is nothing new, but this store is a reminder of how well it can work.

Charles Dimov

Showrooming is what shoppers do. Great to see Dyson embracing it and pushing it to the max. Definitely, this is the right thing to do for high-end products, gear and equipment. For now, I think showrooming will be an omni-channel practice primarily focused on high-end goods. After all, if it were a $5 or $10 product, the consumer would just buy it right then and there. Then the name of the game is inventory.

Yes, the showroom concept is important for new product introductions to the market — in-store demos, trials and testing the product. But generally, this will be the domain of more expensive merchandise.

The interactive experience is an expensive proposition and most retailers perceive it that way. The smart move is to open up test stores. Try the concept, test what works and draw a conclusion about whether this is the right move for your business.

Retail’s future looks much more experientially based, and interesting!

Chris Buecker

Not many brands have such an innovative brand portfolio as Dyson. This is key, as the brand needs to offer something unique. Dyson has been tremendously innovative, first with vacuum cleaners, then with ventilators and now with hair dryers. In 2018, their main focus will be on China, opening many new stores. In the future, we will see more brands who do have to offer a unique value proposition to the consumers opening experience stores — no doubt about it.

Mohamed Amer
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
1 year 1 month ago

The showroom model is perfectly suited to deliver on a rich, high-touch experience that turns on, but is not limited to, high-end items. We’ve seen several new ones pop up across categories and geographies — and I fully expect to see many more in the future.

The organizing principle is the customer experience, not the product. The targeted experience will determine the central item and the secondary ones that help fulfill the experience. Simply having new products with high wow factor isn’t sufficient to pull through follow-on sales. The products need to touch people’s lives in unique ways and fulfill deep needs and desires. Identifying and satisfying these needs will be key to success.

Bob Amster

The concept of the showroom is an interesting one, but is probably only effective in the high-end market. Witness Kohler in the Flatiron district in New York and PIRCH showrooms in CA (closed in NYC). These are truly experiential showrooms where potential customers (decorators and subcontractors as well) can see, feel, and try the products, and then talk about them to others. But the expense of the real estate and staff to demonstrate products has to be offset by high margin dollars. Others will catch on, but I predict that there will not be a flood of them. A few in carefully-selected areas is my prediction.

Cathy Hotka

Look at the publicity this store has generated. The store itself will reach a limited number of customers, but the press reports will reach many more people. This, and the ads Dyson is running about its cordless future, have created sharper awareness. Great idea.

Ricardo Belmar

This experiential showroom approach is ideally suited to high-end items like Dyson products, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be applied to other types of products. While we might not see shoppers spilling Cheerios on a Target floor to test out a new vacuum, it doesn’t mean those same shoppers won’t find themselves one department over trying out 10 different light bulb styles and dimmer switches in a staged home environment. Both are experiences, even though both may not fit every retailer’s model.

This does require a more developed sense of creativity and innovation that not every retailer possesses today and also requires a new level of capital investment in their stores. We’ve all said this here in this forum before: retail stores of the future will include these types of experiences as that is how customers want to shop — they want to experience products before they buy — and this is the store’s #1 advantage over online shopping!

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

A product playhouse, as the Dyson Manhattan store is called, exhibits tremendous confidence in product value and excitement. Retail experience suffers from a poor definition of who should pay for the experience (i.e. the retailer or the brand). Store within store, pop-up and brand retail facilities answer this. Some retailers are good at collaborating with brands (think Macy’s/Nike), but we are seeing a time of redefinition of the branding and merchandising relationship among product providers and retailers. Standalone stores, such as Polaris recreational vehicles, that prove through analytics that improved customer experience results in more sales, are positioning themselves to extend their quality of retail presence into other formats.

David Weinand

I see this concept working best for higher end products and brands — especially in locales like Dyson is targeting. The math would be very hard to justify for brands that live in the lower price point realm. I definitely see this trend expanding with brands that are trying to control their own channels (think about how many brands are now selling DTC online) and it makes a ton of sense for any brand that has products that have some complexity or uniqueness that would benefit from a curated experience.

Meaghan Brophy

There are definitely applications across the board, as more customers prefer alternative purchasing methods like purchasing online or picking up in-store. Lower in-store inventory can allow customers to experience and test products, then place an order.

The model that comes to mind is Apple. Each product is out for display, and customers can interact with them. But when it’s time to make a purchase, an associate brings the product out from a back room. I think this model could be applied to a lot of retailers. The end result is a cleaner display and more interactions with stores associates.

Joy Chen

The high experience showroom concept is good for any product that needs one-on-one demonstrations to prove the value of the product. This showroom concept works for beauty products from Warby Parker glasses to Dyson’s. It is also part of the brands’ marketing strategy to build awareness and trial. Showrooms must be part of a brand’s business model and strategy as it can be a big investment to do it right.

Rich Kizer

In nearly every focus group with retail customers, we hear of their desire to work with attentive staff when they have no real knowledge to guide their purchase decision. The Dyson showroom is right on target. Retailers must learn that this concept is not limited to special showroom stores, but must be implemented in areas of stores that lend themselves to the necessity of a one-on-one learning relationship. Look at the experience of purchasing a vacuum at a run of the mill retailer and we see the customer lifting and returning vacuums, trying to find information on each, with no involvement with any staff. And they will never find the Cheerios to spread on the floor — but they want all of that!

Byron Kerr
Byron Kerr
Head of Amazon, Tuft & Needle
1 year 1 month ago

Dyson is tapping into a model that has (and continues to grow) legs.

b8ta is a great example of this. Experienced their shopping experience in Seattle last year and it was high-touch, highly interactive, for new, innovative products. This model is suited better for higher priced items as lower priced items are more transactional and less experiential.

I believe we’ll start to see more retailers try this model as brands realize bricks + clicks can be successful. Many DTC-first companies are starting to open retail locations. Many brands that traditionally leveraged distributor/wholesale relationships are starting to open locations as well.

Sterling Hawkins

The options for what to buy and how to buy it are endless and curating an experience around the customer is a differentiator. While showrooms specifically are more appropriate for higher end products, it’s a lesson for all of retail that focusing on experience is necessary regardless of your vertical these days.

Ken Morris

The showroom concept is a perfect fit for vacuums, as it is hard to judge the quality and performance from a website. With a double-digit sales increase, it shows that showrooms are an effective strategy for Dyson. While the showroom model is a perfect fit for high ticket items, like furniture and vacuums, it is also perfect for anything that consumers would like to touch, test, or try on. Electronics, clothing, and perfume, are a few other categories that are prime for retail showroom models. Hybrid models also work well where a retailer carries a limited selection and leverage enterprise selling and distributed order management models to ship directly to the customers home, hotel, home store or anywhere.

Experiential shopping is extremely effective, especially for consumers that love the theater of shopping. It is also, one of the best ways for retailers to differentiate from pure-play online retailers who are also getting in on the showroom act.

Peter Luff

The model works at both ends of the spectrum. This is about creating an immersive environment for the brand to capture the hearts and minds of the target audience. An example at the low end is M&M World. As both these brands show, it’s about a total commitment to the experience and doing it well. It takes imagination, curating and a wider view to brand building to support the business case.

"Not many brands have such an innovative brand portfolio as Dyson. This is key, as the brand needs to offer something unique. "
"The math would be very hard to justify for brands that live in the lower price point realm."
"Look at the publicity this store has generated. The store itself will reach a limited number of customers, but the press reports will reach many more."

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