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Retailers are offering entertainment to draw customers in the door. Cliff Smith, left, a fudge maker at Chip's Chocolate Factory at Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri, demonstrates how the treat is made to an audience of potential customers.

Jill Toyoshiba, Mct - Mct

To attract more shoppers, retailers add entertainment

  • Article by: JOYCE SMITH
  • Kansas City Star
  • December 8, 2012 - 9:33 PM

Just putting a price on a product and sticking it on a shelf is so old school.

With consumers buying more each year online, brick-and-mortar retailers are working harder to add entertainment to their mix -- from American Girl's scavenger hunts to the Art of Shaving's product demonstrations.

These experiences are something consumers can't get from online shopping, so they drive traffic to the stores and keep customers there longer. They also build brand loyalty.

"You can buy a product just about everywhere. They are trying to add a different element so it is not just about the product," said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive officer of WSL/Strategic Retail, retail strategists and futurists based in New York.

Retailers have been using entertainment to attract shoppers for years, from mall carousels to the Mall of America's amusement park. But with advances in technology and growing pressure from online competition, more retailers are adding interactive attractions inside their stores.

Savvy retailers engage customers with entertainment options, from watching to fully participating.

For 40 years, Bass Pro Shops has stayed open on Thanksgiving Day, drawing customers out after they have downed their Thanksgiving dinner for family-friendly attractions -- free photos in Santa's Wonderland, aquariums that re-create scenes from a local lake and free rides. Or, as one customer put it, a "few free hours of entertainment."

Bass Pro Shops customers enter through a turnstile, just as they do for attractions.

"We're the Disney World of outdoor stores -- a natural history museum of the area they are in, an aquarium, an art gallery with all the beautiful murals, antiques and conservation education. And oh, by the way, we do retail," said Larry Whiteley, spokesman for Bass Pro Shops.

Interactive experiences are a key way American Girl sets its 14 stores apart from other toy stores.

"In terms of the retail environment, it's what we've come to be known for," said Stephanie Spanos, spokeswoman for American Girl. "At American Girl, it doesn't just start and end with just a purchase."

The American Girl events -- some free, others with a fee -- create memories and build brand loyalties with its young customers.

On Jan. 1, for instance, it will have interactive events to introduce its 2013 Girl of the Year doll, the name a closely guarded secret until it is announced in late December.

Girls will get to go on a scavenger hunt through the store, visiting an area for a free craft and getting a gift to take home. Past gifts have included a poster of the Doll of the Year. This year's gift is a surprise.

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