Founded in 1862, FAO Schwarz was the oldest toy store in the United States. The flagship store on Fifth Avenue was known for its exceptional in-store experience, boasting a working piano set into the floor. It has appeared in many feature films.
Given its fame, it was fitting, Bird said, that FAO Schwarz’s final promotion was for dinosaur film Jurassic World. “It was like a dinosaur had come crashing to earth.”
The store closed for good on July 15 this year. Amazon did $1.5 billion worth of business in the same day, with 398 items ordered each second. The sale which prompted this was across Amazon’s ‘Prime’ network, which now boasts 20 percent membership across all US households.
Bird shared some innovations from Amazon which included the Dash button and a similar device which can read barcodes. Users can also speak into it and ask it to order, for example, peanut butter.
“Are all these things going to work and revolutionise the way that we shop? Who the hell knows, but I think it’s amazing they’re out there doing it.”
Bird invoked Moore’s law by pointing out that the power of computing doubles every two years, linking this to a need for retailers to reinvent the store format.
Among his observations are:
- There was a time when retail stores steadily increased in size, but they’re now becoming smaller. Some stores are using technology to replicate the opportunities of a big store for customers, while others are curating their offerings more tightly to the needs of their local customer base.
- ‘Off-price’ retail is becoming a bigger influence. Designer or high-value items at deep discounts are in demand, but Bird warned that these kinds of stores were retraining customers to expect an unreasonable level of value.
- Vending machines are being used in innovative ways, vending items such as Nespresso pods and even cupcakes. “In a time when any of us can order anything we want at any time, from any place, what is a store?” Bird asked.
- New ways of transacting are being developed. Pizza company Domino’s is a market leader here, plus Apple Pay and Disney’s MagicBand are making waves.
- A lot of shoppers are bored. Bird recommended retailers seek to re-engage them by being respectful and relevant, and by creating a deeper meaning behind their brand identity.
On a relevant note, Bird says pop-ups are still in. Pet food brand Friskies gained consumer attention for one of its pop-ups by arranging for an appearance by Grumpy Cat, victim of feline dwarfism and A-list internet celebrity.
The sauce is boss. Unless Grumpy Cat's around. Today's mission: donate meals to shelter cats. How? Stop by the Friskies Create & Taste Kitchen today in NYC to meet Grumpy and play fun games. We'll donate a meal for each game played.Not in New York? Post a pic of your cat's saucy side on Instagram @Friskies #teamsaucy #nyc and we'll donate a meal to shelter cats. We might even feature your cat!Posted by Friskies on Thursday, 20 August 2015
- Retailers can reimagine value by emphasising the provenance, uniqueness or scarcity of their goods.
Above all, Bird says, retailers should seek to retain their humanity: “Understand deep human truths and dedicate yourself to remaining a moving target.”