By Sofia Stenfors
Self-service is everywhere. From ordering food from the restaurant counter to self-checkouts and self-service check-in desks at hotels and airports – the list goes on. However, it seems that people are seeking human interaction once again and prefer to interact with other human beings rather than machines. Is this a backlash of the digital age we are seeing? It feels nice to talk to people, and at least I am ready to pay that little extra for someone to serve me at the table.
These days, it is possible to shop for pretty much anything online. If I bother to visit a physical store, I expect it to be some kind of experience. To my great joy, many shops in Stockholm seem to be taking this direction. They can no longer be just a shop – they must be something more, and there are many concrete examples of this around town.
Retail stores with own second-hand sections
Retail stores today often offer more than just a place to shop, making physical visits worthwhile. One such service, which is becoming increasingly popular among Swedish brands, is the second-hand section at clothing stores, where you can leave your own used clothes and find somebody else’s gently used pieces or samples. For example, Mini Rodini, a trendy brand for kids’ clothes, has a separate section for second-hand items from its own brand. The well-known Polarn & Pyret also has a rack with second-hand clothing in its stores. At the lifestyle store APLACE – known for its progressive Scandinavian fashion brands, you can find a separate section with gently used clothes from different curated brands that customers have brought into the store.
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From a service and experience perspective, there are many benefits for the customer. When you come in to buy your new winter coat, you can leave your old one for sale at the store and when you hand in your kids outgrown clothes you get a discount voucher for your next purchase. Also, thrift shops aren’t always easy to shop at because the clothes aren’t curated. Some people also find the excitement of finding something more unique and at a lower price tempting – almost like a treasure hunt!
Second hand rack at Polarn & Pyret at Liljeholmstorget Galleria
Grocery stores with own restaurants
Not only are fashion stores exploring new forms of customer service, but grocery stores are also expanding their offerings beyond just being places to shop for groceries. They now include restaurants, fresh produce, and other services. One example of this is Ica Kvantum, which is ICA’s premium concept for grocery stores. When you step inside, you immediately get the feeling of being in a premium grocery shop where the market hall meets the farmers market. Here, you can buy green plants, fresh seafood, take-away food, and freshly squeezed juices made on site. In addition to offering high-end products, they have also created their own restaurant concept and opened bistros inside some of their stores and in connection with the grocery stores.
ICA Kvantum’s own restaurant Bistro Liljeholmen at Liljeholmstorget Galleria
I find it exciting that we are moving towards a more service-oriented society once again. Physical shops may not be able to compete with online stores on price alone, but they can offer a better experience and greater convenience. While travel agencies used to be big business, nowadays they mostly operate as online services that provide a platform for people to book trips on their own. This presents a great opportunity for companies to rethink their physical shopping experience and meet modern consumer demands. I am predicting that the old-school travel agency with a counter and dreamy pictures of the Maldives will make a comeback as people are looking for services that make their lives both nice and easy.