Pirch is redefining what it means to try before you buy. The startup retail company just opened a massive new store in SoHo, Manhattan’s most shopping-centric neighbourhood, and it’s packed with fun, interactive gadgets.
The gimmick: All of the home appliances and fixtures that Pirch sells actually work in the store, so you can experience them firsthand and imagine them in your own home. The refrigerators are chilled, the faucets and showerheads run water, the ovens beep, and the washers wash.
Pirch was co-founded in 2009 by two formerly retired executives in the home and real estate development business, CEO Jeffery Sears and chairman Jim Stuart. Both men had similarly terrible experiences trying to buy home fixtures and appliances. In 2011, they opened the first Pirch store in San Diego. Later, they would open eight more across the country.
Pirch offers a completely different shopping experience. Let’s take a tour through its brand-new SoHo location, which was built in an old metalworks building. It’s one of the biggest stores in the neighbourhood, and the company’s largest location yet.
Pirch focuses on three areas of home appliances: the kitchen, the bathroom, and the outdoor space. All of its merchandise is laid out in a highly interactive space. 'We thought, 'How would we want to be treated?', and so we built a place where people were received as guests,' CEO Jeffery Sears said to Business Insider.
Pirch is attempting to disrupt what it says is a $40 billion luxury appliances market. Pirch has raised a total of $127 million in venture capital, including $62.8 million from L Catterton, who also previously invested in Restoration Hardware.
Any shopping trip at Pirch starts with a stop at the Bliss Cafe, a full-service coffee counter that's stocked with complimentary cappuccinos, cucumber water, and lemonade that customers can grab as they enter the store.
From the cafe, you are free to move around the three levels of the 32,000-square-foot store. Everything is interactive, from the running faucets to the beeping dishwashers. 'Look but don't touch' does not apply here whatsoever.
The appliances are set up in what the company calls 'vignettes' so that the customer can imagine what each might look like in their own home. 'It's all about imagining what's possible,' Pirch CMO Laith Murad told us while giving us a tour of the new store. All Pirch employees must attend a week-long training seminar in San Diego called 'Elements', where they become experts in the company's retail philosophy.
According to the listing for this particular retail space, the monthly rental price asked $5 million.
Though some products, like this extremely high-end La Cornue oven, retail for tens of thousands of dollars, Pirch says its prices are in line with manufacturer-suggested prices.
Besides high-end appliances, the company also sells items like this wine keg that will keep open bottles of wine fresh for weeks.
Pirch doesn't sell commonplace things like cabinets, flooring, or backsplash tiling, and claims it likes to instead focus on the items that bring 'joy' into the home.
You'll find this motif plastered throughout the store. It echoes the company's motto to 'Live Joyfully'.
What you won't see much of is information. Though the prices for all displayed units can be found on wall placard to the side, it's not exactly near the showroom unit. Neither are other details like wattage or sizing. 'We don't talk about BTUs and things that don't make any sense,' Sears told us.
Though the ovens you see in the staged vignettes are not operational, once you venture over to the test kitchen, you'll find ovens that are. A head chef is on hand during business hours, spinning out everything from roasted chicken ...
... to wood-fired pizza. You can sign up for cooking classes at the store, or just grab a slice as you wander around the space.
Pirch says it focuses on the higher end of appliances, starting where Lowe's and Home Depot leave off, and overlapping some.
This Samsung refrigerator is a good example of what you'll find on the lower end of Pirch's offerings. Pirch makes it a point not to upcharge for its showroom experience, compared to retailers that sell similar items.
Downstairs, things are a little brighter. Pirch says the average customer spends roughly two hours in the stores before leaving.
The constant drip of this water feature makes for a soothing entrance into the area, where the bathroom fixtures are on full display.
The motion-sensing toilets wink at you as you pass by, but they are not functional, perhaps for obvious reasons.
Things get a lot more interesting when you enter the area known as the 'Sanctuary', which has a full spa and can be closed off from the rest of the store.
Every showerhead Pirch sells is on display in a row. You can use an iPad to turn on different showers alternately, so you can see exactly how water might come out of them.
The brave can strip down and get right under the rainfall showerhead to test it -- provided, of course, they make prior arrangements with the store.
There's also a large vignette meant to resemble a small New York-style apartment, complete with smart home technology.
Sears says it's all about the in-store experience. 'We don't sell online because we don't believe these products should be bought online,' he told us. Everything Pirch sells is also handled and installed by the company, and comes complete with its own extended warranty.
Pirch is currently in the process of launching a new website so that the playful experience can be continued online.
Before coming to Soho, Pirch sought to educate itself about the neighbourhood and its history. Each of its conference rooms (also known as'Dream Rooms') are named after local landmarks, like Ladder 20, the fire station down the street from the store. 'I had a lot of people warn us that (coming to New York) was going to be brutal and difficult, and it was the opposite,' Sears said.
Pirch doesn't typically advertise when it enters a new market, instead relying on word of mouth. For the New York location, the company tapped 14 design and lifestyle celebrities -- including Nate Berkus, Andy Cohen, and Iris Apfel -- to be the faces of a new ad campaign that it plastered in the city's subways.
The brand apparently has lots of fans already. To celebrate the opening of the store, Pirch invited New York City's design and home building community to a party held in the space. Over 1,200 people RSVP'd to the event, and the store was packed head to toe with industry professionals in their finest networking attire.
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