Pirch: Is it a first mover case study or a flawed model?
Last week’s announcement that Pirch will be closing most of its stores while overhauling its operations came as a shock.
The bright beacon of store experience, Pirch was named one of Inc. Magazine‘s 25 most disruptive companies a mere three months ago. Its unique approach was also applauded by VMSD last year when it named Pirch “Retailer of the Year.”
Co-founder Jeffery Sears’ public response summed up what made Pirch so special. “The design of our stores informs the customer journey and ultimately the experience for our guests. It allows them to dream, discover and be inspired in an environment that promotes human connections, community, and genuine care. We set out to create a retail space that is innovative and engaging, and it is humbling to be recognized for our efforts,” Mr. Sears said in accepting the award.
By appearances, the strategy seemed to have paid off. Last October, Pirch shared that it was pulling in $3,000 in annual sales per square foot, a close rival to Apple. The company also continued its expansion, opening its tenth location in Austin, TX in May. And yet the store was already closed when this week’s announcement hit the wires.
What went wrong?
A Retail Touchpoints article published last week dissects the question from many angles, ultimately pointing to a flawed business model. The Pirch store was artfully designed to create an experience like no other for “guests”. The question is, were guests the end user or were designers?
My colleague and author Joe Hasenzahl of High Street Collective wrote, “Customers have loved Pirch like a duck loves water. They upped the ante of exactly how much someone can love a store; the everyday visitor just doesn’t buy enough to support such a monumental per-square-foot cost.”
He goes on to make the point that experience without great product and a successful business plan is just a spit in the wind — much like a dream without a plan is just a wish.
- Say It Isn’t So: Pirch Closes Majority Of Showrooms – Retail Touchpoints
- Pirch, a chain lauded as a retail savior, will shut most stores – Chicago Tribune
- Pirch Named 2016 VMSD/Peter Glen Retailer of the Year – VMSD
- PIRCH’s in-store experience picks up where Home Depot leaves off – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think was the root cause of Pirch’s store closings, despite seemingly successful numbers? Was it a flawed business model or something else? Does this change your perspective on experience as the savior for retail stores?