Shops pursue the feel-good factor
Stores such as Saks and Urban Outfitters are looking to work out more than your wallet.
As retailers struggle to draw in shoppers who have migrated online, shops are seizing on one of the few bright spots in the industry – fitness and wellness – in hopes of engaging consumers.
That means meditation lectures with Deepak Chopra at ABC Carpet & Home in New York, a yoga class at Bloomingdale’s or a wellness getaway with Free People.
One recent Wednesday, a dozen women walked into Saks on Fifth Avenue, tucked their purses into lockers and got to work performing squat thrusts and jumping jack intervals at an hour-long boot camp. After class, they could browse through a rack of US$85 Phat Buddha leggings or try Glow Recipe’s $58 oil essence with cactus extract.
Mila Petrova says it’s the location more than the shopping that has drawn her – it’s closer to her office. “I probably would have gone [to the workout] wherever they put it,” says the 27-yearold, although she can see herself buying holidays gifts because she’s already in the store. Several shops have opened stand-alone locations with vast areas carved out for exercise classes and seminars. Urban Outfitters’ five-storey Space Ninety 8 in Brooklyn scheduled a chakra meditation this month.
None of the chains is talking about how much the wellness business has increased sales, or if it has. But while clothing stores struggle, US activewear sales have increased. Last year, they rose 11 per cent over 2015 to $46 billion, according to The NPD Group, a consumer tracking service, and are up from $36.9bn in 2014.
So it’s no surprise retailers want to offer those customers more and keep them in stores longer.
Saks’ New York flagship has devoted a floor to its 16,000 square feet wellness sanctuary that opened in May and offers fitness classes, a salt chamber and meditation alongside merchandise. After a sweat session, fitness aficionados can test home gym equipment, get custom-fitted for golf clubs or get their nails done.
“We need to be their sanctuary, whether they need retail therapy or want to feel good about themselves,” says the Saks president Marc Metrick.
A boot camp at the Saks Fifth Avenue.