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The Retail Experience Economy | Impressions On The "The Most Interesting Store In The World’

While questioning what is the future of experience economy and how that is applied to fashion and retail, I was faced with the opportunity to experience Showfields, an immersive shopping experience dubbed as the most interesting store in the world.

After being welcomed by nice girls in white overalls (a choice that gave us sterile lab vibes) and getting a secret password to be able to go through the experience, on the third floor we entered a cute world behind a secret bookcase. Behind the secret door, there was a slide that landed in this enchanted psychedelic futuristic forest filled with neon lights and mirrors and influencers taking pictures. The first product was a skin exfoliator (I missed the part where she explained why we were in a forest with an exfoliator). Next was this business hotel stand where a girl with the softest voice ever explained to us that the hotel - a mix between home away from home with a chill vibe and technological approach - would soon be opened for business in, of course, Williamsburg. The experience continued behind a white door, and we entered the house of an eccentric fictitious character, Amelia Fitzgerald. Everything from then on would resemble a house with its typical rooms - except that each of the rooms is a sales pitch for this cool/tech new product and tons of art installations. There was the living room filled with tech art frames. The kitchen looked like a lab, hello sterile vibes, and they were pitching superfoods that looked like astronaut food: whatever happened to people actually enjoying chewing food? Didn’t matter really, I was focused on another product, a self-cleaning cool sponge to clean the dishes and veggies (I’m a mother, mind you, my choice of purchases are sponges over retro-futuristic objects)!

The bathroom was built for the Gram. The bedroom was very 90s (which is now retro), filled with second-hand clothing from one of the pop-up stores and souvenirs that you can also purchase at the end of the experience.

The very end was this art installation by Dante Dentoni which is a wall with a hidden LEGO world on it. I’ve seen this before in video that Zedd showed of his house, so it was pretty cool to see that miniature world and discover the little nooks. It was then that I noticed that there were art installations throughout the whole experience, which I failed to notice because I was perhaps overwhelmed by the whole plot created to sell products.

In the end, there was a store to buy all the merchandise that we saw and experienced. If only I had some thousand of dollars to buy a red-brick brick telephone (got it?) art piece, I would have gone home feeling great to support the arts! But not to be unfair on the prices, there was also a very affordable Discman which I almost purchased because my mother would have loved to go back to listening to her meditation CDs on it (and yes, for her it's not the same to have it on Spotify).

Ok, immersive experience but there is a whole other floor filled with pop up stores. Bodega Latina, by Babba. Some Man Repeller pop-up store. A thrift store that tried its best to look like NY in the 90s with its collage, graffiti, and urban installations. A great selection of products - or should I say great curation?

I spent one hour between the experience and the merch store, some other 40 minutes on the third floor with the pop-ups, all of that at 3 pm on Wednesday. Although a great experience filled with Instagram shot opportunities, it is overwhelming. I give great props to the visual merchandisers of the pop-up stores, it transpired authenticity and identity for each of them - and also a gram opportunity by itself. Everyone was super nice and the experience is cool, but it begs the question: who has the time? Definitely not a 9 to 5 person, are we basing this experience solemnly in freelancers and Gen Z after school program? Definitely not for the tourist, it requires some scheduling, and between that and standing in line at Domenic Ansel, I’m sure I know where the tourists are.

This is one more of those moments where experience economy enters the retail/fashion world in an attempt to give a unique experience, but I’m probably just the wrong target here. I am a strong believer in branding, telling compelling stories, and having strong imagery to back it all up. I am a strong believer in the power of branding, in the power of connecting through stories and experiences and I also believe that being overwhelmed is not good for business.

Most of the products displayed were really cool products. Having a great product and a great story is enough for me to want it, share it, and tell my friends about it. I am no influencer, I get that, but maybe I am also a strong believer in word of mouth, reviews, and… great products! In my perspective what happens sometimes in those experiences is a whole circus around a not so great product - a product that would need a circus to sell. But in the end… products weren’t even Instagrammed, the art installations were because of the Gram, and hey, I have no idea of the sponge’s brand name that I so loved, and that is definitely not a great thing.

We are so immersed in screens, technology, and being entertained at all costs that we are ultimately unimpressed, and the wow factor that was once there is just… another place for a picture.

Showfields is not like any other store indeed! The immersive storytelling experience and pop-up shops, brands, and artists are only there for a limited time, and the limited time factor is for sure the catalyst for the main attraction: limited edition. When something is only available for a certain time, people who actually experienced has a better social status, as that person was able to be part of something unique, something that no longer is available for the masses. And that factor creates a great opportunity for Showfields to understand what products work for that specific public and do even better next round of brands, and sell more! So, you see? It’s business as usual, but this time business looks prettier.

To identify, connect, and socialize clearly means different things to different people and generations, and it is great that different offerings exist. But while my younger sister would have loved the immersive experience, for me there is just a lot of noise surrounding pretty cool products that could sell themselves by the simple fact that they are good products with a story to tell, no need for all the fuss.

Showfields is interesting indeed, and as per definition of the word 'interesting' it does catch your attention, so the premise was delivered and one more time I get to say: one more point for the branding team! Cheers!