Experience-heavy upstart appliance retailer Pirch has shuttered its New York City location, a company spokesperson confirmed to Retail Dive.
The company in September closed most of its showrooms and was negotiating with landlords on the East Coast and Midwest, including the New York store, in the city’s SoHo neighborhood.
The company is focusing on its well-performing California stores and working on a new growth strategy to be unveiled in a few weeks, the spokesperson said.
Pirch is a poster child for today’s brick-and-mortar ideals — a retail playground of sorts that allows shoppers to actually try out appliances and watch chefs prepare food using more than a dozen kitchen equipment displays, among other working systems. Unlike in typical big-box showrooms, water flows from faucets and flames flicker on stoves.
The retailer has garnered numerous awards for that effort, but that hasn’t been enough to keep it going outside of California. In its home state, the company’s core base is found among architects, builders and interior designers that return for multiple clients. Those professionals would send their clients to check out Pirch's stores, and enthusiasm grew among consumers from there.
By contrast, the purchase volume among enthusiastic retail shoppers elsewhere wasn’t enough to balance the expense of having working appliances and chefs demonstrating high-end stoves on the floor, the company said. Plus, the enthusiasm spawned by the trade wasn't present at the stores in Dallas, Chicago, Austin, Paramus, NJ, and Atlanta. Those were all in malls, which are less likely to cater to design professionals. And the New York store’s appeal worked in the opposite direction of those in California — appealing to consumers first and the trade second — which proved to be an ineffective strategy, the Pirch spokesperson told Retail Dive.
"Pirch has decided to restructure and operate out of their Southern California base and therefore a decision has been made to exit all non-[California] markets with immediate effect," according to a sign at the 200 Lafayette Street location described by the Commercial Observer, a real estate industry publication.
But the company remains dedicated to its approach and the company source described the regrouping effort as a repositioning of its real estate and location approach, and not of the brand. In fact, Pirch may very well return to New York or elsewhere after absorbing the lessons it's learned from its failed expansion, the spokesperson said.
Among the kudos the retailer has garnered — including being a KBIS Innovative Showroom Awards Finalist in the Multi Location Retail Showroom Category and a SoHo Innovative Showroom Finalist, a Fast Company World’s Most Innovative Companies in the Retail Sector, a finalist in the World Retail Awards Best In-store Customer Experience Initiative, one of Thought Works Top Ten Stores to Visit and on Inc. Magazine’s list of "25 Most Disruptive Companies of the Year" — is praise from retail prophet Doug Stephens, who has singled the retailer out as a prime example of what retailers must do in today’s challenging environment.
Its retreat doesn't signal a flaw in its method, however, insists Stephens, author of Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World. "I still believe that Pirch was and is directionally correct in their approach," he told Retail Dive in an email. "There simply has to be a better kitchen and bath shopping experience than the big box. I think they came to realize that such an elaborate and immersive retail environment, coupled with high prime real estate rental costs, is difficult to scale, especially given that their assortment is aimed at a relatively thin segment of the high-end market. As they say, 'the pioneers take all the arrows,' and Pirch stores were ambitious retail productions."
The utility costs of forging such a high-level experience make the decision to regroup and refocus their efforts on the professional segment a smart one, he also said, adding: "But I doubt we’ve heard the last of Pirch on the consumer side."