Management experts used to focus on retailers such as Starbucks and Sephora as examples of the "experience economy." Like the popular sandwich wrap, those chains bundle a great time in with the product or service. We feel uplifted, special, and even transformed when we exit those retailers, after spending more than we anticipated.
The new model for the experience economy could be PetSmart. Here on 400 Universal Drive, North Haven, Connecticut, both we pet parents and our four-legged children get transported to another dimension. Yes, animals are welcome. Some day I expect an elephant to swing by, for whatever. Yesterday, the day before Christmas Eve was an especially heady experience.
The dogs knew they looked great after being groomed in the PetSmart facility. The pet parents beamed with pride. Shrewdly that niche in the store is completely transparent, enclosed by see-through glass. That way we can keep an eye on how our children are doing. Lee K., my adopted dog, and I received two-paw greetings as the newly groomed got sprung loose. A jubliant pet parent dropped a bundle purchasing a stuffed Santa for her clean fluffy Japanese Chin.
It would be a disservice to label the staff "employees." Rather they seem like ordained ministers who tend to our needs with evangelistic passion. Store Manager Walt views PetSmart as "Retail with a Soul." For the second time since Lee K. came into my life five months ago, one man pulled out all stops serving us. The first time was fitting Lee K. with just the right harness. Last night it was to track down among all PetSmart stores if his fav chicken entree was available any where. No dice. The "minister" speculated that the manufactuer might be rebranding and he would keep me up to date.
As we went up and down the aisles lookin for alternate brands, Lee K.'s spirits brightened. He had become depressed because I had been out of my home office for five hours pitching to a prospect. It didn't matter that Lee K. had a sitter to walk him and that I did get the business to ghostwrite a book. He wouldn't eat. Wouldn't poop. And wouldn't smile. Within 20 minutes at PetSmart, his mood had a paradigm shift.
Also, PetSmart regularly provides space for animal adoptions. Homeless cats and dogs temporarily rescued find their forever homes. At the register, there is a mechanism in the ATM through which we can throw in a few bucks for animals causes.
Struggling brick-and-mortar retail can learn plenty from PetSmart. Harvard Business School should do a case study on this experience-economy player.