Shops pur­sue the feel-good fac­tor

The National - News - Business - - The Life - Kelli Kennedy

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.

Mary Altaffer / AP Photo

A boot camp at the Saks Fifth Av­enue.

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