I like to characterize a sudden good idea as getting whacked on the side of the head by a two by four. Today, I got whacked by a lily. My wife’s birthday is tomorrow and I walked into a convenient florist to order some flowers. Except what I walked into was a little café. Quite nice really, with people sitting on casual, older comfortable furniture eating, reading, drinking coffee.
For just a couple of seconds, I was a bit put off, thinking calling the place a flower shop was some kind of clever marketing I wasn’t cool enough to understand. But the flower shop was in the same space, but towards the back. I cannot believe I didn’t take a picture.
While the flowers were being arranged, I chatted with the people who worked there. It seems that the whole space was once a flower shop. The half where the café is now was filled with various gifty, somehow flower related things, whatever those are.
As the economy evolved, the former owner of the flower shop found, as it was described to me, that “People just weren’t shopping in stores for those kinds of gifts anymore.” She additional described how half of their flower orders were now coming by phone or online. The obvious result is that they just didn’t need the space.
Soon there was a new owner who may or not be the person who owns the café, but this person or these two people determined to share this space. The flower shop cut its space and, one assumes, it’s rent in half and probably reduced some other overhead expenses. It’s still got a few potted plants and related gifts, but they don’t take up much space. It downsized its space and expense without downsizing its florist business.
Meanwhile, this combination of the café and flower shop works. The two businesses in the same space complement each other and just kind of flow together. There’s a commonality of ambiance and feeling. It’s an intriguing surprise when you walk in and figure it out. Do they bring each other business? Don’t know.
Let’s be clear this is not like a skate shop next to a skate park. Obviously, people who buy flowers also eat, but there’s no market niche connection here. This is just two disparate businesses sharing a space and I guess it’s working. It doesn’t matter what the two businesses are. It matters that they can comfortably share a space and an ambiance. They are not competitors and, if they were, I don’t know if it would work.
When businesses are competitors, we put walls around them (these result in what is known as a “store”) and each does its best to try and look different from the other. We spend a fortune on that with, these days anyway, uncertain results, since they end up looking so much the same anyway.
The restaurant and the flower shop are kind of two stores, but kind of not. They are definitely two businesses. They provide each other with a distinctive look and feel they would not have if each was by itself surrounded by four walls in the traditional way. They’d even have the ability, I guess, to maybe put in an extra table if the restaurant was hosting a big group or maybe giving the flower shop a little extra room during its busy time of year. Whenever that is.
There’s some fluidity to this arrangement I like as well as some marketing distinctiveness precisely because the two businesses are not related.
You can see why I feel my head whacked by that lily. This arrangement makes financial sense. It makes differentiation sense. It addresses the need to manage expenses tightly and to deal with the impact of online.
Should Arbor open some kind of stall in a big Starbucks (Bob- I’m not sure I’m kidding, though I haven’t worked through why Starbucks would be interested)? Should a half dozen brands get together and open a single big store with their branded products comingled based on function? It would certainly be convenient for the customer. The systems can handle that now. Boy, would that piss off retailers. Well, retailers are becoming brands and brands retailers (have become?), so maybe it’s just the next step.
Wow. What started as an “Isn’t that interesting” when I walked out of the flower shop/restaurant is threatening to become a full-on rant. Still, everybody is trying to control expenses, we’re moving towards needing less space in brick and mortar, and in a slow growth market where consumers have complete information and extensive choices, we need to give them an experience.
Maybe I got the germ of an idea here.