Merchant Innovation

American Girl's New Flagship Store Could Be Experiential Retail Model

American Girl Flagship Store

When most retailers talk about retooling their brick-and-mortar locations to chase some shade of experiential retail, it's all about adding more multimedia distractions on top of a decidedly unentertaining offering. However, now that American Girl is looking down the barrel of a B&M renovation, it might have more success with a pivot toward improved in-store experiences than others.

That's the story from Racked, which reported that since the lease on American Girl's flagship store on New York's Fifth Avenue is set to expire in fall 2017, the brand is taking the opportunity to not only move its main in-store presence to Rockefeller Center but to also revamp its in-store experiential offers while the iron is hot. Among the planned amenities for American Girl's new landmark store include personalized doll clothing design stalls, touchscreen kiosks that allow cafe and salon reservations (catering to both human and doll shoppers alike) and floor-to-ceiling multimedia walls. Though both locations are roughly 40,000 square feet, it's the Rockefeller Center location that has Wade Opland, senior vice president of retail experience at American Girl, bullish about potential changes coming to the rest of his company's in-store operations.

“This store will be the reinvention," Opland told Racked. "It really is our store of the future, and from this one, we will evolve our other stores over time."

For other brands without American Girl's experience, to announce a grand experiment with its flagship store would raise some eyebrows, but the company's long tradition of using its stores as centers for low-tech entertainment and doll customization could soften the necessarily disruptive event of retooling brick-and-mortar experiences. As long as American Girl can navigate the divide between in-store doll makeovers and in-store doll selfies, it should have less to worry about than other brands trying to make a similar leap.

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