This Jack Wills store relies not on technology, but on brilliant retail theatre.
Take one medieval market town in Surrey, add a Grade II-listed 17th-century manor house where Sir Winston Churchill once stayed, then introduce an iconic British retail brand.
What do you get?
A unique in-store experience like no other.
For behind the magnificent Georgian façade of this Jack Wills outlet in Reigate lies a real gem.
‘Outfitters to the gentry’
The house, over its three floors, is arranged just as it would have been.
Founded in Salcombe 17 years ago by Robert Shaw and chief executive Peter Williams, Jack Wills has become the archetypal British brand – the sign outside proclaiming ‘outfitters to the gentry’ – carving a special niche amongst the well-heeled university generation.
Much is written about technology driving in-store experience, but this espouses none of that.
The sheer majesty of the house – for it really shouldn’t be described as a store – is such that there really is no need for technology.
On entering, the grand hallway is all wood panelling and bare floorboards, lending a marvellous patina to the experience.
This is no show home – its age very clear – and it is all the better for it.
It is as if you have been invited round to a warm, convivial house party.
I’m told the house, over its three floors, is arranged just as it would have been.
An enticing environment
The fitting rooms are laid out as a bedroom and are simply stunning.
The magnificent hallway has a staircase leading enticingly to further rooms upstairs whilst the large drawing room leading off the hallway is filled with merchandise laid out using some of the original fixtures and fittings.
On chatting to the store colleagues, it is clear that they love the place and recognise how special the house, as they refer to it, is.
Floorboards creak underfoot as I make my way upstairs, however nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to encounter.
As the faded sign on the wall indicates, I am about to enter the ‘bathing room’.
Sash windows, wooden shutters, or recessed window seats I might have expected.
But right in the centre of the room, filled with Jack Wills merchandise, is an old roll-top bath.
Could this be where Sir Winston once had a soak?
Even the old loo is still in situ.
Exploring further to the top floor, I encounter the fitting rooms which are laid out as a bedroom.
In-store on steroids
This is in-store experience on steroids.
We often refer to the theatre of retail and there are some great examples (think Liberty, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason).
But little comes close to this.
If you’re seeking inspiration and an antidote to the unrelenting march of technology, this might just be for you.
Andrew Busby is Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections, an IBM Futurist and regular contributor to Retail Week.
First published in Retail Week December 2016