Why It's Disruptive
As brick-and-mortar stores attack e-commerce with its own weapons--adding more technology--premium appliance retailer Pirch opts, instead, to overwhelm the senses. In the San Diego company's stores you can test-drive an oven by baking cookies or a grill by preparing a steak, with a professional chef on hand to instruct you in the features. (Founder James Stuart compares the experience to buying a high-end car from Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher.) Afterward, cool off by wandering beneath the store's 40 showerheads. Bathing suit required.
Almost everything at Pirch can be turned on and used in-store, including products in the cutting-edge internet-of-things room. The company also owns the whole service chain: Products are delivered in Pirch trucks, installed and serviced by Pirch technicians, and covered by a Pirch warranty. So far, stores are in only nine cities. But Pirch recently hired as CEO luxury retail veteran Andrea Dorigo, who is putting in place processes to significantly increase the rate of openings, starting in 2018.
Retail is a low-margin business and Pirch stores are costly to open and operate, so the road to profitability is long. Build-outs are complicated--all those utility lines--and local permitting agencies often have no clue how to categorize the multifunctional spaces. --Leigh Buchanan