Startups in the eCommerce space have long enabled their customers to experience their products in real life (“IRL”) through temporary retail shops, and now, digitally-focused brands belonging to major retailers are taking a similar approach. News this week came that Walmart’s Allswell brand will be letting customers see its mattresses and home products in a tiny house that is touring the country.
The four-room house, which is a mere 238 square feet, was built for the brand by Modern Tiny Living. It features the brand’s Luxe Hybrid mattress in its master suite, and the brand’s lower-price The Allswell offering on a custom couch. The tiny house will make the rounds across the country — from coast to coast — and stopping in cities such as Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles along the way after beginning its tour on Thursday (Feb. 7) in New York City.
Allswell Brand President Arlyn Davich said shoppers were asking the label to visit their cities to provide them with a chance to try out its mattresses. Davich said in an announcement, “We couldn’t think of a better way to do so than with a Tiny Home and literally welcoming people into our home, allowing them to fully immerse themselves in the brand.” With that goal in mind, the company also included digital commerce experiences in the tiny home.
For starters, shoppers who visit the tiny house can take a surprise promo code out of a so-called “Dream Jar.” The company said that discounts in the jar will span from 10 to 20 percent off, with unique codes that can save consumers a few hundred dollars. In addition, consumers can consumers can buy the company’s Allswell mattress on the spot along with bedding items in the store. For customers who want to remember their visits, or perhaps Instagram them, the space also houses a “bird’s eye” photo booth.
Davich told CNN that the tiny house campaign allows the brand to experiment in various markets, while giving it a chance to highlight its products. At the same time, Davich told the outlet that physical stores could potentially be in the cards. Asked if Walmart could roll out stores for the brands, Davich said, “We could open a fleet of tiny homes that travel across the country. We could open stores as an expansion of our digital presence.”
Another eCommerce mattress brand, Casper, experimented with pop-up shops in 2017, and, in the same year, Target linked up with the brand to sell its mattresses. Casper then opened its first brick-and-mortar store in 2018, showing that some eCommerce mattress brands that open temporary stores end up opening permanent locations.
In Other Brick-And-Mortar News
Fashion retailer Charlotte Russe, which has over 500 stores in the U.S., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As it looks for a buyer, the retailer reportedly plans to shutter roughly 95 store locations. The retailer was purchased by Advent International for $380 million in 2009. However, the company has struggled, along with other traditional mall retailers, amid rising debt and falling mall attendance.
In 2018, the company lowered its debt from $214 million to $90 million in a restructuring deal. Charlotte Russe also has a debtor-in-possession funding commitment for up to $50 million. As it stands, all of the retailer’s online operations and stores are currently operational.
In other news, Target has been quietly testing a new loyalty program for its members in Dallas since last spring. The offering, which is dubbed Target Circle, will make its debut in five U.S. cities — Phoenix, Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Charlotte. Through the program, consumers can earn a special birthday reward and a 1 percent return on all Target purchases.
Other perks of the program include free Restock delivery, and loyalty members also score half off of a Shipt membership for same-day delivery. Target’s chief marketing and digital officer said, according to CNBC, “We wanted a program that was … not just about collecting points to get savings.” He added that the company sees the offering as “a much bigger platform to build relationships with our guests.”
On another note, Kroger announced this week that Home Chef meal kits will now be available in 500 more Kroger stores across the U.S. As it stands, the brand’s meal kits are in the Kroger Family Stores in markets across the country. The kits are available in Kroger in places like Ohio and Kentucky as well as other brands such as Ralphs in California and King Soopers in Colorado.
In a press release, Kroger Senior Vice President of Merchandising Robert Clark said, “Kroger continues to redefine the customer experience and provide new ways to shop for, prep and cook meals through exciting brick-and-mortar and digital experiences.” The news comes less than a year after Kroger announced a merger with private meal kit company Home Chef last May.
For the latest in retail trends, keep your finger on the latest Retail Pulse.