“It’s nice to come into the store and get your hands on it”

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ta­mara Chuang

The min­i­mal­ist decor apes the stark white coun­ters and ta­bles of one of the best-known sin­gle-branded stores around. But in­stead of Macs and iPads, there are drones. Un­boxed and on dis­play. Touch­ing al­lowed — even for the $4,599 DJI Ma­trice 600.

“I’m more hands on, so it’s nice to come into the store and gets your hands on it and kind of see what’s ac­tu­ally go­ing on and try dif­fer­ent things,” said Jorge Her­rera, who drove from West­min­ster to check out Thurs­day’s grand open­ing of Colorado’s first DJI store, where drones cost sev­eral hun­dred to sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars.

But this isn’t just a store that sells drones. It’s an of­fi­cial DJI store, a brand that dom­i­nates the un­manned air­craft hobby and higher-end con­sumer space. The Shen­zhen, China-based com­pany, the mar­ket leader for con­sumer drones, chose the Park Mead­ows mall neigh­bor­hood in Lone Tree as one of 10 it is open­ing in the U.S., and the first au­tho­rized store in Colorado. It’s hop­ing to mimic the suc­cess of Ap­ple stores in­stead of the fum­bles of other brands — re­mem­ber Nike­town, Sony Style and Vir­gin Me­ga­s­tore?

“We’re try­ing to get our prod­uct into as many hands as pos­si­ble, and this is a great way to do it,” said Adam Lis­berg, DJI’s North Amer­i­can spokesman. “We love that our prod­ucts are avail­able at Best Buy and the Ap­ple store be­cause those are na­tional and in­ter­na­tional chains that can reach a lot of peo­ple. At the same time, there is value for us to set up and show what our drones and cam­eras can do in an en­vi­ron­ment that is strictly fo­cused on DJI.”

The new store is op­er­ated by the own­ers of Mul­ti­copter Ware­house in Cas­tle Rock. But it’s not a fran­chise. It’s an au­tho­rized DJI store. Only four DJI stores are owned and op­er­ated by the Chi­nese com­pany, and those are all in Asia.

Kerry Gar­ri­son, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Mul­ti­copter, said Mul­ti­copter has sold a va­ri­ety of drones for three years. But af­ter many brands proved less re­li­able, the store found it­self sell­ing mostly DJI prod­ucts.

“It made sense that when they asked us to do a branded store, we felt the time was right to play off their brand in the mar­ket­place,” Gar­ri­son said.

Con­trol­ling the en­tire brand ex­pe­ri­ence is a busi­ness strat­egy. But com­pa­nies go about it in dif­fer­ent ways.

“Ap­ple made no bones about the fact that their store was at least half there to serve own­ers — thus the ge­nius bar and a lot of non­selling space de­voted to ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing, and sup­port,” said Nikki Baird, manag­ing part­ner for RSR Re­search, which tracks re­tail trends.

Oth­ers like Nike­Town tried dif­fer­ent things, such as in­stalling a bas­ket­ball court and run­ning track so cus­tomers could see how shoes felt in ac­tion be­fore pur­chas­ing a pair.

“But for com­pa­nies like Sony, who try to cre­ate a buyer ex­pe­ri­ence for some­thing that is not re­ally de­signed for a short try­out, it’s much more chal­leng­ing. It’s dif­fi­cult to ap­pre­ci­ate a sur­round-sound sys­tem in a five-minute demo. You want to sit down and watch a movie, and get a feel for how you’d im­ple­ment that in your own home,” Baird

said. “And a lot of those ex­pe­ri­ences that get fu­tur­is­tic get gim­micky (and old) too fast — faster than the brand is will­ing to up­date and main­tain them.”

Sony phased out its Sony Style stores last year but still has a flag­ship store in New York. Mean­while, Nike­town, which closed its Den­ver lo­ca­tion in 2011, re­vived the im­mer­sive con­cept last month and opened a new Nike­town flag­ship store in New York City.

As a niche mar­ket, drones are still find­ing their way into main­stream. And sales are grow­ing rapidly, ac­cord­ing to the Con­sumer Tech­nol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion. Sales of drones are ex­pected to dou­ble this year to an es­ti­mated $800 mil­lion, com­pared with last year’s $443 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to CTA data.

DJI’s new store in Lone Tree is def­i­nitely a prod­uct show­case, much like the other re­cently opened DJI stores in New York and Belle­vue, Wash., Lis­berg said.

There’s a gi­ant cage near the back that lets staff fly and demon­strate the drones. Many on staff have a drone li­cense and are in­volved with the lo­cal com­mu­nity. All drones on dis­play are meant to be picked up and touched. Want to try one? Just ask.

“We want to make money. We’re not a com­pany known for en­ter­ing mar­ket­ing and tak­ing on projects that won’t make money,” Lis­berg said. “But at the same time, there’s no phys­i­cal show­case in the U.S. to show off DJI. From our per­spec­tive, if they’re sell­ing our com­peti­tors, we don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to give a show­case to our com­peti­tors as well.”

Hy­oung Chang, The Den­ver Post

Billy Ni­chol­son of Den­ver checks out the DJI Ma­trice 600, a drone that sells for $4,599 at the newly opened DJI store at the Park Mead­ows mall. Shen­zhen, China-based DJI is the mar­ket leader for con­sumer drones.

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