The new bar for brick and mortar.

So about a month ago I did a post called ‘Nike Stores Aren’t Stores‘.

And if that was a hint, today was a dead giveaway about where the future of retail is heading, especially when it comes to brick-and-mortar.

I kicked off a snow NYC Saturday with a trip to American Eagle’s new prototype stores – AE Studio. Holy shit am I glad I did.

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American Eagle, the once struggling teen-centered clothing brand – somewhere wedged between American Apparel on the low side and J. Crew on the high side – rolled out AE Studio in Union Square to test out a new shopping experience.

Before you even walk in, there’s an AE Studio truck outside giving away free hot chocolate to anyone (literally ANYONE). Then you walk into a colorful, electric vibe with the first room lined with hundreds of jeans and iPads, digitally demonstrating the fit of each pant.

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There are loads of patches that you can get sewn onto your jeans while you’re in store, helping hype up this notion of personalization that AE is really trying to drive home. It helps the customer feel like they’re getting something truly unique. And because it’s done right then and there, it’s an EXPERIENCE.

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Move further and you’ll see a laundry room. Yes, a FUCKING LAUNDRY ROOM. Why? Because NYU dorms are literally next door and they want young college kids (totally their demo) to come do laundry for free, chill and potentially buy some shit. Or ‘gram from inside so their friends can see.

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Want more chill? You go upstairs and there’s a lounge. Yes, a lounge. Outlets, chargers, bottled water, free WiFi, music, etc. All to not only entice people to come into the store in high-foot-traffic Union Square, but to then STAY AND HANG OUT. All of this is free, regardless of whether you buy something or not.

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So. Why does this make any sense? Why bother doing all this stuff for free for consumers? Who really gives a shit and wants to hang out in an American Eagle?

Well first, the place was crowded. Far more crowded than I’ve ever seen an American Eagle before. And it sucks people in with perks like hot chocolate, free laundry, WiFi, outlets and bottled water. And the thought it was once you walk into the store, the product is cool enough and prices are low enough that you just may make a spontaneous purchase.

And if you don’t? It’s still a win, because people like me now think American Eagle is infinitely cooler than it was before I walked in, which means I’m more likely to consider them going forward or even to promote it (like in this fucking blog post).

SO GOOD ON YOU AMERICAN EAGLE. You absolutely nailed this. I really hope this proves to be a slam dunk for the business and that you roll out more of these going forward, because this is the future of retail, especially for brick and mortar. And in high traffic areas.

Good on ya, mate.

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