California-based retailer Pirch is setting a new standard in shopping for home appliances by allowing customers to test products first hand in its stores – right from turning on a kitchen stove to standing under a fully functional showerhead. What’s more, shoppers are greeted with fresh coffee and complimentary snacks as they look around.
The idea is to get customers to spend a long time in their stores, and it seems to be working. According to Pirch CEO Jeffery Sears, shoppers are now spending an average of two hours and 11 minutes at each of their locations. And of course, they’re buying stuff too. Some of Pirch’s eight stores across the US are reporting sales over $3,000 per square foot, a number surpassed only by Tiffany’s and Apple shops.
“We know that when people walk through the space they’re just stunned and they start to dream,” said Sears, who co-founded Pirch with James Stuart in 2009. “Water runs, the chefs are cooking and people are learning. Pretty soon you just simply say, ‘My house sucks.’”
Photo: Pirch Soho/Facebook
At Pirch, appliances aren’t simply lined up in rows for shoppers to look and merely touch. They’re showcased in real-life indoor and outdoor settings like fully furnished kitchens, bathrooms, and patios. $12,000 shower heads and $15,000 grills are casually placed within these “vignettes” and shoppers get to use them first-hand and imagine them in their own home. For example, one of the largest vignettes is made to resemble a small New York-style apartment, equipped with smart home technology.
At Pirch’s brand-new SoHo location, there’s always a chef cooking in the test kitchen, with the aroma of bacon and other treats wafting through the air, and shoppers can even sign up for cooking classes. The ‘Sanctuary’ is equipped with a full spa and can be closed off from the rest of the store if booked in advance. ‘The Bliss Cafe’ is always stocked with complimentary cappuccinos, cucumber water, and lemonade. Customers can grab anything they like and then proceed to browse the vast collection of high-end appliances.
Photo: Pirch Soho
Interestingly, the only information you can see about the appliances on display are the prices. No other details are ever mentioned, like wattage or sizing, because Sears thinks that it could spoil the perfect retail experience. “We don’t talk about BTUs and things that don’t make any sense,” he said. The store does not overcharge for the showroom experience, and of course, there are over 1 million items stocked at reasonable entry prices for moderate-income shoppers as well. Sears’s goal is for customers to have “no reason to buy from anyone else.”
But Pirch mainly focuses on high-end luxury, starting where stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot leave off. The company reportedly wants to disrupt the $40 billion luxury appliances market, and it has already raised $127 million in venture capital. “It’s all about imagining what’s possible,” said Pirch CMO Laith Murad, speaking to Business Insider. In fact, all Pirch employees are required to attend a week-long training seminar called ‘Elements’, where they become familiar with the company’s “customer first” retail philosophy.
Photo: Pirch Soho
Through Pirch, Sears is attempting to reinvent the brick-and-mortar store concept and get people interested in retail shopping again. “We don’t sell online because we don’t believe these products should be bought online,” he said. They don’t even advertise when the enter a new market, instead relying on word of mouth. The entire advertising budget is instead spent on serving customers better. But there will soon be a new interactive website to extend the hands on experience online.
Pirch’s revenue for 2015 reportedly reached $225 million, with the growth doubling each year. The company also plans to expand with four new stores every year.