Connecting a couple of dots: retail experience and luxury.
The Economist says that luxury goods manufacturers need to look at selling experiences as even the poshest products become commoditised:
Makers of luxury have come to realise that the paradox of industrial craftsmanship can be pushed only so far. To captivate new clients and keep the older ones on board, brands will have to invest shopping with a sense of occasion and give ordinary customers some of the individual attention they have lavished on their biggest-spending ones. Increasingly, that is what they are doing. When Burberry launched a perfume in September, it gave customers a chance to inscribe bottles with their own initials, both in shops and online.
One new brand I’m watching at the moment is Tracksmith, a running apparel label from Luke Scheybeler, co-founder of Rapha the company that showed that stylish clothing at a high price would sell to cyclists.
With no physical stores yet, and a small collection of niche products, it is using story to create an experience for its customers – the story of running, style, culture and history. And the story of its own beginning.
Since it started, earlier this year, Tracksmith has been selling a small but growing – one or two items at a time – collection of clothing based on traditional New England and Ivy League designs. (Duffer of St George did something similar in the UK in the 90s, and then the brand drifted into mass market confusion.)
The brand is – like Rapha – defined by a bold, clear sense of self, of what it is about, the story it will tell, how it will feel to buy and wear its clothing. A beautiful website is a given with these guys – and this one is perfect. It takes its time – there’s space for the products. The look and feel of the photography is consistent and exquisite – you would buy the VSCO Lightroom pre-sets if they were available.
Tracksmith is testing the market and tempting it – a steadily building collection, limited runs of products. I’ve bought a couple to try out – and I’ve had to wait a couple of months until the first t-shirt I wanted was back in stock.
What’s interesting about Tracksmith’s content strategy is that – point of sale style aside – it centres on a print publication. Meter is essentially a Rouleur for running – all about the history and culture. It comes in a digital version too, but the print looks gorgeous – if you like design or photography and running, you want to own the physical one (only $5).
As a runner, I’m used to technical, functional and often pretty unstylish clothing and – frankly – content. Runners World is the staple periodical for runners. It’s good for tips and motivation, but stylish and beautifully designed it is not – and its website is an embarrassment (I say that as a paying subscriber). It’s aspirational in a performance sense, but running as a culture and a lifestyle, not so much.
Any way – connecting this brand to experience. Look what happens when one of Tracksmith’s unsurprisingly pricey t-shirts arrives in the post…
The packaging is perfect, like receiving a gift.
And there’s a note in the form of a race number that marks that the order is one of the first 2,014 orders ever to be shipped. Everything about this feels special. Exciting. There’s a story being told and you are a part of that story is what it says. And – simple as it is – the quality of the product is exceptional.
So, Tracksmith. Watch and learn…