Business Blog

Outdoor Personalized Retail Catches On at Brick-and-Mortar Stores


Retail outlets are getting personal.


No, they’re not prying into customers’ business or nosing around where they shouldn’t. Rather, many brick-and-mortar retail stores are offering increased personal service and a better one-on-one experience — something online outlets cannot.


And consumers are responding.


The personalized retail trend emphasizes a positive in-store experience customized for each shopper. To retail veterans such as Clark McNaught, senior vice president/general merchandise manager for home, gifts, shoes, accessories and cosmetics for Realtree partner Stage Stores Inc. — a department store company specializing in brand-name apparel, accessories, cosmetics, footwear and housewares in smaller communities in 40 states under the Bealls, Peebles, Stage, Goody’s and Palais Royal names — the effort seems natural.


“If you look at different businesses on our retail floor, probably the biggest example is the cosmetics business,” he said. “The customer comes in and meets with her favorite beauty advisor. They have a relationship. That’s not something that’s easily duplicated online, because she’s getting how-to examples, and she’s being shown how to apply different makeup and use different fragrances.”


That experience-forward approach translates well into other businesses, McNaught said, including traditional outdoors and lifestyle retail outlets.


“We happen to believe in the gift experience — buying a great gift for someone and going through that process,” he said. “It’s a little more hands-on; a little more fun to help that customer complete their gift-buying experience.”


Although many observers view personalized retail as a reaction by brick-and-mortar outlets to combat online shopping, McNaught doesn’t see it that way. In fact, he believes it’s a natural function of the retail business.


“The store associates are our biggest brand ambassadors,” he said. “They’re our first contact with the customer. We encourage them to greet the customer, establish a relationship and be positive and outgoing. Most are anyway. I think it (personalized retail) is becoming more of a focal point with a lot of retailers to make sure they’re capitalizing on a lot of opportunities and forming a bond with their customers.”


Strong brand recognition also boosts the personalized retail experience. McNaught mentioned Realtree as helping in that area, as America’s No. 1 camouflage company has many licensees in multiple categories. That appeals to consumers seeking specialty items, such as tumblers or other novelties — something “gift-able and cool,” he said.

McNaught said he believes personalized retail will continue to grow. In fact, it might forge a natural synergy with online shopping, as consumers can opt to ship merchandise to a store and then pick it up there, continuing the one-on-one connection with retail ambassadors.


“It facilitates the customer going to the store and … then while they’re there, they might see alternative products that might be complementary to the purchase,” he said.

Another retail trend will also likely continue to increase, McNaught said: localization. For example, Stage Stores has many retail outlets in Texas, and it sells lots of Texas memorabilia items, such as mugs.


“That’s probably something that’s on the rise as well in terms of trying to have civic pride in the town you’re from or the state you’re from,” he said. “Realtree has lots of data about the types of programs and products that sell best in different categories, whether it’s hunting, fishing or (others). That allows us to make better decisions and localize our selections better, whether it’s in West Virginia, Texas or the Midwest.”