The emotional charge of retail is so often underestimated, its potential to connect with people so underrated. In today’s New York Times (5/16/08), in the “Escapes” section, there’s a story about how people like to stop at the same restaurant, store or even fast-food joint every time they make a routine getaway to their weekender homes.
“It’s right before you hit the part of the road that gets wind-y,” says Aimee Grove, referring to Ikedas in Auburn, Calif., which she describes as “a funky little store slash hamburger stand slash bakery.” She continues: “You get out of the car, and it’s usually warm. It feels like summer all of a sudden. It signifies that you’re almost at the cabin. It’s almost vacation.”
Jerry and Judi Lerman understand — the couple always stop at the Stew Leonard’s in Danbury, Conn. during their trek from their Manhattan home to their weekend place in Washington Depot. They always buy the same things — Caeser salad fixings, peas, carrots, fried rice and a prepared turkey. On the way home they stop again, this time for frozen yogurt cones. “Our kids think we’re crazy,” says Jerry. “But we’re creatures of habit.”
Sadly, when such habits are disrupted, it can be devastating. Such was the case with Perry’s Nut House, on the way to William Gamble’s summer home in Maine. Stopping there was a tradition that began with William’s father. “It was full of curiosities, animals that had been stuffed, a giant clamshell which terrified me. We always got fudge, and it was really good,” he says.
Perry’s closed more than ten years ago, but William still mourns: “It was part of the fabric of going to Maine. You’d get there, and you could see where you were going. It was part of the change in the landscape.”
Do you suppose that any of these retailers have fully considered this incredibly powerful dimension of their relationships with these customers? I doubt it. Do you suppose that any of them let these extremely loyal customers know that, hey you are just as meaningful to us as we are to you? Not bloody likely.
That’s a missed opportunity of Wal-Martian proportions!