It's clear from the moment you step inside Samsung's Experience Store in Westfield Stratford City that this is not your typical own-brand shop.
The wel-lit wall displays and desks are adorned with a plethora of products, while the tall ceiling and sleek lines entice the customer in.
You’re first greeted by three displays – a Galaxy Note 3 smartphone perching on a bunch of paper notebooks, the S Pen stylus raised above hundreds of pencils and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch surrounded by plastic wristwatches.
A wall of TVs, including Samsung’s new 85-inch £35,000 UHD and 55-inch £7,000 curved OLED models, is on one side, with a mix of smartphones, tablets and all-in-one computers in the centre.
There’s a giant screen above the payment desk at the back, a separate TV demo room housed in glass and a robotic vaccum cleaner trundling across the shop floor by itself. This isn’t a store – it’s a technophile’s wet dream.
It seems more Apple than Sony, but it certainly feels more like an experience than a sales and service space.
“Our aim isn’t to hard-sell or compete with other retailers at all – it’s to work with them as a partnership,” store manager Imran Asghar tells PCR.
“We want to create an awesome experience for our customers and an environment for them to want to buy from us. We want to offer an experience that no one else can.”
Richard Pattinson, Samsung’s head of retail, comments: “We can get direct consumer feedback really quickly, see what promotions work, what merchandising techniques improve sales, and we can share the information with our partners. That’s been incredibly successful. We’ve trialled certain merchandising in-store which we’ve rolled out to Dixons and Harrods.”
Samsung began ‘dual-locating’ products in its Harrods concession store to help boost sales, with tablets sitting next to TVs rather than having several goods from one category.
Since the Samsung store has been open, Pattinson says that sales in the nearby Phones 4U, Carphone Warehouse and John Lewis stores have improved.
“The effect our store has had on Westfield Stratford has been an eye-opener,” he adds. “It’s improving our presence and doing a good job of helping our partners by providing that Samsung halo effect to the area.”
Heading upstairs, there’s a wall of smartphone accessories, a kitchen area featuring home appliances, and a seating area in the middle, but arguably the two most important parts of Samsung’s offering on the second floor are tucked away towards the back. Customers can bring in faulty products to the Smart Service desk or learn more about their particular device by sitting in a Smart Academy class.
Samsung also offers free delivery, home installation and five-year guarantees on its TVs, as well as hosting new product launches in-store.
“The level of service has exceeded expectations,” comments Pattinson. “The store is proving fruitful enough for us to base the rest of our plans on.”
Samsung’s retail Galaxy
As well as its own brand store in Westfield Stratford City, Samsung currently has a concession stand in Harrods, three temporary studios (in Stratford, the Birmingham Bullring and the Manchester Trafford Centre), as well as experience zones in 14 Currys and PC World stores. Five new pop-up stores also sprung up at the end of October.