Jeffrey Sears is so adamant that his company is nothing like Sears, that you could be forgiven for thinking he gets a bit defensive.
He needn’t worry — the last name is just a coincidence — but Sears also happens to be the the CEO of Pirch, a high-end outdoor, kitchen and bath appliance company that in some ways is a premium counterpart to the more traditional department store.
“Sears isn’t really the bar to set,” said Sears.
Situated on the corner of Broome and Lafayette in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, the new Pirch is the company’s eighth store and its first in New York City. On the ground floor is a cafe and test kitchen where cooking classes are held on the weekends; chefs are also kept on call throughout each business day in case a customer wants a demo of a stovetop or wood-fired oven.
Every sink, shower, refrigerator and oven is “live;” customers can test out everything before buying it, including shower heads (just come carrying your bathing suit).
Sears said that the goal of the store’s layout and features is to let customers have an experience, which is why everything can be played with and tested in person. He said that his goal is to bring human interaction back to retail, so digital elements are largely left out of the stores, other than a few touchscreens.
“Why would we want to digitize something experience driven?” said Sears. “It’s about human to human interaction. We want people to come in and feel like home.”
Pirch’s in-store strategy is in line with an industry-wide consensus: With the rise of e-commerce, stores need to provide something extra to customers in order to draw them in. Urban Outfitters bought a pizza chain, for instance, and Tommy Hilfiger has tested virtual reality fashion shows in its NYC store. The difference between most retailers and Pirch, however, is that the company doesn’t sell any products online. If you want to buy the shower head you just ducked under, you have to do so on the spot.
Getting the shower of your dreams at Pirch will cost you, though: Prices online show that shower sets cost anywhere between $500 and $900, while bathtubs range from $350 to $11,500. However, most prices are unlisted, with directions to contact your nearest showroom advisor for more information.
The decision to take a more analog approach to selling doesn’t mean the future is totally lost on Pirch. Exclusive to its Soho store is a “Connected Loft” display, powered by technology platform Innit. The display demos what a kitchen of the 21st century could look like down the line. A table is outfitted with a screen that pulls up recipes from editorial partners like The New York Times and Epicurious. If the user is interested in a recipe, sensors around the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator can share what items from the list are in the house, and which will have to be ordered. With the touch of the screen, those missing items will be sent through a grocery delivery partner.
After that, the selected recipe is sent to a screen situated above the oven. A wave of the hand moves the screen to the next recipe step, and the oven begins preheating automatically at the right temperature. A connection to the cutting board can also tell users how old their produce is, and when it is best by. Heather Velez, creative producer at Potion, the agency that works with Innit, said that the Connected Loft is meant to demonstrate the possibilities of Innit’s technology, and that a price for the full set wasn’t readily available.
“It’s to show what the possibilities are,” said Velez. “But people have been really excited about it.”