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4 May 2018


Few mass retailers are good at creating memorable, personal experiences for their customers. The hospitality industry is much better at it. Can hospitality be the new retail?

Hospitality recognises the need for multi sensory environments and emotional connections. In a well-conceived restaurant you’ll find something for all of the senses. There is the visual presentation, incorporating the spatial design, the lighting and the finishes. Everything you touch will feel good. The choice and volume of music will be on point. And of course the food will smell and taste fantastic. Then you’ll get the emotional overlay. The service and attention you receive will be important. You’ll like the other customers around you. The bill will be within expectations. Even the font used on the menu will be the right legibility for you. Your date will be impressed. Everything has been created with you in mind. You belong here.

How can we create a similar experience in mass retail?

The primary definition of hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” The hospitality industry added the payment part. Many conventional retailers have added elements of hospitality to engage their customers.

Businesses like Institchu sell made to measure suits but the environment is more like a private members’ club where you’ll be served with a drink while being measured up. I recently visited Virgin Holidays in Manchester – it’s a travel agency but is set up like a resort. You can literally sit at the bar and order a drink while your host is helping you plan your holiday. The Google Garage in Manchester is in a retail street but literally sells nothing. It’s there as a resource to anyone who uses Google and lets them learn about using the Internet, setting up a small business, or optimising their social marketing. Google’s income comes through many other channels – the Garage contributes but money doesn’t change hands there.

Retail is becoming become less about the product itself and more about how we feel about the brand and how it affects our lives. More and more it is social, about sharing experiences and emotions. When our friends visit a restaurant or a great retail experience overseas, we share a little piece of that experience.

We used to talk about the Kodak moment. We’re now in the age of the Instagram moment and need to design for it. 

Gary McCartney

4 May 2018
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