By Janet Groeber. This article was published in the June 2016 issue of STORES Magazine.
Bricks-and-mortar retailers looking for a reboot need go no further than their physical space for a new lease on sales.
So says Kapow, a Chicago-based company that connects clients planning events with retail venues across the country, in real time. Part disruptor and part event planner, Kapow makes it possible for retailers to transform unproductive dayparts or even unused space into sales vehicles.
These stores have the ability to generate pure profit through the retail space they already have, simply by using bricks-and-mortar locations as an events space after hours.
Kara Walsh, Kapow’s chief marketing officer, predicts “retail experiences” — events in which companies rent physical locations to treat clients to a shopping spree (offering appetizers and drinks as well) — will lead to a new breed of bricks-and-mortar stores. Since January 2014, when Kapow began offering these types of experiences from its retail partners, more than 500 have been purchased.
“Traditionally, corporate events consist of a cocktail party and/or a dinner,” Walsh says. “While there will always be a situation for these types of events, our retail experiences give companies a creative way to interact with clients in a different setting, allowing them to have meaningful face-to-face conversations in a unique atmosphere that will make a lasting impression.”
Retail-centered events offer an exciting new environment for mingling, she says. “Guests also walk away with a tangible gift — a physical reminder that will keep the host top of mind every time they wear or use their new product.”
Kapow offers a wide variety of experiences, so any retailer with a physical location has the opportunity to participate. “Despite the changing face of retail due to the popularity of online shopping,” Walsh says, “bricks-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to use their stores to their advantage. So much of the bricks-and-mortar budget goes toward renting retail spaces that are essentially only used a portion of the day.”
MAKING EVENTS PROFITABLE
BucketFeet, a Chicago-based retailer that specializes in artist-designed footwear, has been working with Kapow for more than a year in an effort to increase awareness and boost sales in its New York and Chicago stores.
Founded in 2011 by Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein, BucketFeet represents more than 20,000 artists from over 100 countries and exists to connect people through art. The artists receive a portion of the profits made from their footwear designs. In addition to its own freestanding stores, BucketFeet has an online store and sells through other retailers such as Nordstrom.
BucketFeet uses Kapow to book and manage anything from artist gatherings to client happy hours and company parties in its stores. In its third month with Kapow, BucketFeet says its State Street store in Chicago had the highest month of sales ever; Kapow drove 20 percent of that.
“Kapow works with a great group of clients and we were excited to have access to hosting those groups in our retail studios,” says Hannah Kardux, studio operations manager at BucketFeet. “One of our goals in partnering with Kapow was to be able to figure out how to make our events profitable. [They’ve] definitely helped us do that. We also frequently see repeat customers coming back to make purchases after experiencing our brand for the first time.”
Though a number of retail events allow guests to purchase merchandise already on the floor, BucketFeet takes a different path. Groups have their run of the trendy space, and the inclusion of a BucketFeet artist means guests have an up-close-and-personal chance to hear the artist describe their work. Guests can also “unleash their inner stylist” while designing their own kicks. Attendees leave with a pair of custom-made sneakers, fueled by their own creativity.
The Chicago store has hosted more than 50 events, Kardux says, and the New York store more than 20. “We continue to receive great feedback about our shopping experience — where each guest leaves with a pair of BucketFeet shoes. This experience is also catered with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, so it’s a great opportunity for the groups to relax and hang out in a unique environment.
“We often see the same companies booking this experience multiple times with different clients,” she says.
COMPLEMENTING ONLINE PRESENCE
Brands are increasingly viewing their physical locations as opportunities to provide an experience to complement their e-commerce presence. Kapow offers a number of proprietary tools on the platform for both companies booking events and venue partners offering experiences.
For hosting companies, Kapow acts as a single portal to oversee all aspects of an event. Companies can create guest lists, send digital invitations and track RSVPs, manage and track guest check-in from a mobile device and access post-event reports and a digital album of photos taken at the event to share with attendees.
These tools make it possible for sales teams to spend less time managing events and more time focusing on face-to-face conversations with clients and prospects, Walsh says.
For venue partners, Kapow provides a portal to accept and manage events — those booked through Kapow or through the venue directly — with a single online dashboard. Venues can adjust booking preferences and availability through their Kapow account; that information is then reflected within Kapow’s marketplace in real time.
In addition to the revenue generated from hosted events, Kapow gives retailers a way to “predictably drive dozens of customers in two-hour windows to spend hundreds of dollars each, and scale this over hundreds of events per year,” Walsh says.
“We are opening a new studio in Miami this summer,” Kardux says. “Wynwood is Miami’s Art District and it is also one of the trendiest up-and-coming neighborhoods right now. We are thrilled to have an opportunity to continue to offer unique experiences and events in our space.”
In addition to BucketFeet, “Our most popular retail experiences … include Denim and Soul,Golfsmith, Trunk Club and Timbuk2,” Walsh says. “We are adding new retail experiences every month as stores look to utilize their space as brand experiences and we continue to show a high impact on our retail partners’ business.”
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