Fashion retailer Express is using its New York City Madison Avenue store as a model for a revamped in-store experience, outfitting the space with new technology features for customer use including reserved dressing rooms containing outfits to try on that shoppers previously selected online, according to CNBC.
The retailer views the store as a lab to test new technologies. Other new features include a smartphone charging station for customer use, and in-store digital screens that allow shoppers to browse curated outfits.
The news comes just as Nordstrom opened a new, much-hyped, three-story mens store in New York City that offers many of the same kinds of in-store technology, including phone charging stations.
Express is not the first retailer — even in the fashion apparel segment — to hit on the notion that in-store technology might improve customers’ overall mood and experience as they shop. Macy’s Backstage discount stores, for example, promoted their robust WiFi coverage, mobile checkout and phone charging stations.
Belk has also pursued a store remodeling project within the last year that emphasizes features such as buy online, pick up in store in addition to phone-charging stations, and Neiman Marcus has done something similar (perhaps all these stores with charging stations are taking a cue from Starbucks, which figured out free WiFi might sell more Frappuccinos).
All of these moves play into broader changes in how retailers are attempting to redefine the store experience to stay competitive and build bridges between offline, online and mobile shopping channels. Retailers have been working along these lines for a while, but new developments including the the launch of Amazon Go stores are heightening the need to increase investment and speed up experimentation with these new concepts.
Express, however, may have other motivating factors. The CNBC report states that at least 50% of Express' 650 store leases are coming up for renewal over the next three years. As many retailers look to shut down under-performing stores and put more energy into e-commerce, Express may doing the same — and emptying out its bag of technology tricks to see what works and help revive some locations that might otherwise be closed.