Open Sell, A New Trend in Retailing

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Clinique, a top cosmetics brand, has revised its in-store selling strategy. The brand changed from a high-service, pressure-selling approach to a softer, hands-on approach that lets the shopper play. This new type of shopping environment is known as an “open-sell” environment. This approach was made popular by Sephora, the specialty beauty chain whose hands-on product displays attract a lot of shoppers seeking experiential play with products. Clinique now displays its products in open shelves and drawers for people to interact with rather than being stocked behind the counter. This allows shoppers to easily pick products up, sample, and help themselves.

This new open-sell type of environment takes the shopper’s trip mission into consideration in a whole new way. The needs of the person shopping during a ten minute lunch break trip to restock on a favorite item are much different from the shopper coming in on an extended weekend trip to experiment and get new cosmetics ideas. The Clinique counters have been reinvented to ensure that top-selling items are within quick grasp of shoppers. Salespeople are being re-educated about ways to spot and tailor their services to these different shopping segments. Color-coded bracelets help identify the type of shopping trip the shopper is on so they can be easily spotted and approached or left alone.

All this rethinking seems to be working. The new strategy has garnered double-digit growth in dollar sales at many stores.

This leads me to wonder how many other categories would benefit from an open-sell environment where shoppers can comfortably adjust their involvement level in a no-pressure atmosphere. What if the automotive category did something similar? Apple probably has the most famous open-selling environment. DSWseems to be attempting it in the shoe industry. How about others? How could it work in your category?

Contributed by Michelle Tremblay, Insight & Strategy Director, Integer Denver