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Blog

The secret diary of the Westfield study tour – Seattle

by Garry Connell

Seattle skyline

Day 1

We have just completed our 1st day in Jaclyn’s home town of Seattle, it has certainly been confirmed that they are the home of the “big box”.  A visit to REI (outdoor recreation and sports gear) was unbelievable, to say the least. With a depth in range that matches the customer experience – both of which are complemented with some of the best Visual Merchandising you’ll ever see, the store was packed with happy customers. With 11,000, employees it’s also interesting that they have ranked in the Fortune Magazine’s top 100 USA companies to work for every year since 1998, coming in at number 8 in 2013.

We also went to the Premium Outlet Stores in Seattle. At 2.25pm despite having 4 staff on the register the Michael Kors queue was 15 deep with average transaction at $250 plus.  When I commented how busy the store was the sales associate relayed that the queue had been constant for more than 4 hours.  Incredible!!

Day 2

What a day today was, with a visit to Hointer, Intel AND Costco!

The Hointer store developed by Dr. Nadia Shouraboura is a clear example of a fashion store using technology as a point of difference.  With a “showroom style” main floor displaying the product, you’d scan what you want to try on and it would be delivered to you. A tap of the app would see a different size delivered without you leaving the change room. To checkout a quick scan of your credit card charges whatever is left remaining in your basket, meaning you pop it in a bag and out you go.

From Hointer we headed off to Intel I would have thought a visit to the Intel museum (where we learnt about the history of the computer chip) had little to do with retail. On the contrary, the evolution and continued advancement of microchip technology will drive further change in fashion and retail at an even greater speed than we’ve seen over the last decade.

 After lunch we sat through Costco presentation by their CFO Richard Galanti which was mind boggling. The numbers and size of the company is something out of this world. They sell $118m per year in diamonds, 338,000 cars, 69 million chickens and they sell more hearing aids than anyone else in the USA.

A trip to Seattle is not complete without a visit to Pike Fish Markets which is known for their tradition of fishmongers throwing fish that customers have purchased before they are wrapped up. An odd 28 years ago they nearly went bankrupt at which point they re-evaluated their way of doing business by becoming a tourist destination and introducing flying fish, games and performances.

Day 3

How will technology shape our lives in the future at work, home, leisure and obviously shopping? Our half day at Microsoft assisted in helping us answer this huge question.  I think one of the biggest things that came out of this was how the rapid progress and advancement in Point of Sale (POS) systems will be a real game changer. While some retailers such as Nordstrom have introduced change the sneak preview we got at Microsoft head office of what’s just being released and what the stores of the future will look like is unbelievable.

The final hours of Seattle were ahead of us and we managed to fit in a very quick visit to Westfield Southcenter. The Container Store which only recently opened here is another great example of the company culture that runs throughout this chain which was founded in 1978. Each of the staff welcomes you with a smile and is very proud to talk about the company’s 7 foundation principles which are displayed for all to see above the registers. While retention and engagement are both high, there are very limited opportunities to join the organisation. A vigorous recruitment program means only 3% of interviewed applicants are successful.

We are off to Stockholm next which is the home of IKEA, H&M, Ericsson and let’s not forget ABBA.