Crate & Barrel store partners on the fly with local vendor
Over the holidays, a Crate & Barrel location in Michigan launched a partnership with a local laser engraving vendor the old-fashioned way.
Cutting Edge Lazer Engraving owner Nicole Smith visited the store on a regular shopping trip early in the holiday season, according to a press release about the partnership. During that visit, Ms. Smith struck up a conversation with the manager and mentioned the AP Lazer engraving technology used by her home-based business.
The manager invited Ms. Smith to set up a laser engraver in-store. Cutting Edge Lazer Engraving offered complementary in-store engraving on purchases throughout the holiday season. Crate & Barrel promoted the service and compensated the vendor, and there are accounts of customers being so touched that they teared up at seeing their gifts engraved. The store will continue to host engraving events in 2022 due to the popularity of the experience.
In-store bespoke customization of products has grown in popularity as new technology has come to market to make it feasible and more affordable. Boston-based retailer Ministry of Supply, for instance, implemented a 3-D knitting machine at its flagship store in 2017.
Beyond this single-store initiative, Crate & Barrel has been taking steps in general to provide more services to its customers. The chain in early 2020 opened its first design studio, which is focused on giving customers expert guidance on home decorating.
Crate & Barrel has also been pursuing partnerships on a much larger scale.
Recently it joined a number of major retailers in partnering with Pinterest, according to PC Magazine. The new initiative allows Pinterest users to virtually superimpose 3-D images of furniture they find on the app over rooms in their home to get a feel for how the furniture would look.
Nor is the retailer a stranger to experimentation through single-store pilots. In 2019, the retailer implemented a dine-in restaurant in a store location in the Chicago suburbs. The indoor/outdoor seating restaurant was launched in conjunction with Cornerstone Restaurant Group, which also worked with Michael Jordan on his branded steakhouses.
- Establishing retail partnerships with entrepreneurial laser engravers engages shoppers, drives sales, touches hearts, and differentiates stores – PR Newswire
- Could 3-D tech move apparel manufacturing into stores – RetailWire
- Pinterest Can Now Place Virtual Furniture in Your Home – PC Magazine
- Crate and Barrel marries human expertise with tech advances in a new concept store – RetailWire
- Crate and Barrel takes the ‘feed them and they will come’ approach – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of retailers doing ad hoc partnerships like Crate & Barrel’s in-store laser engraving partnership? Should store managers have the authority to broker these types of relationships at retail chains?