Features, Marketing, The New Rules of Retail

Visit Devon Yard to See the Future of Anthropologie

People are born curious. It’s in our DNA. Actually, there is a curiosity gene. Researchers postulate that humans are driven to explore new things and pursue new experiences because it floods our brains with dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Curiosity is a lot like sex; curiosity activated and satisfied is its own pleasurable reward that reinforces the desire to get that pleasure kick again.

So, it was curiosity that sent me to Anthropologie’s Devon Yard “lifestyle center” when I read about its opening. Located on Philadelphia’s Main Line, not far from where the first Anthropologie store opened in Wayne in 1992, my dopamine receptors were appropriately activated. I came away pleasurably satisfied and eager to visit often to enjoy the experience.

Setting the Table

Devon Yard was built on a six-acre site right next door to the historic Devon Horse Show and County Fair, in constant use since 1896. After the Waterloo Gardens center closed, Urban Outfitters Inc. bought the location and brought it back to life retaining its outdoor-living focus in terrain, Urban’s garden and outdoor lifestyle brand. The Devon Yard courtyard is a full-service nursery and garden center selling plants and offering custom plantings and floral designs. Visitors can enjoy the greenery before they even get inside the main Anthropologie store.

Flanking the courtyard is a Terrain Gardens event space that can accommodate 190 guests with in-house catering and beverage service. Hosting weddings is the natural target for the Terrain Gardens service, with Urban’s BHLDN Weddings boutique also on site providing bridal parties with wedding gowns, shoes, accessories, stylist services and everything else needed to support that special day. And terrain can provide the flowers too.

Devon Yards’ regular guests have two dining choices: Urban’s own Terrain Café with a farm-to-table vibe and its fine-dining Amis Trattoria for Italian fare under the direction of Philadelphia’s acclaimed chef, Brad Spence. On my lunchtime visit, Amis Trattoria wasn’t open yet and Terrain Café was packed. An hour-and-a-half wait time wasn’t in my plans that day, but after reviving with a glass of wine at the bar, I was ready to venture into the Anthropologie store.

Anthropologie Is Looking Good

In my travels I have visited many Anthropologie stores and have been a fan. But Devon Yard takes Anthropologie to a whole new level, literally, as it has two selling floors. Anthropologie is one of the few retailers that knows how to merchandise and sell fashion and fashionable home accessories.

In Devon Yard it goes even further to showcase a whole range of furniture and furnishings in a cohesive lifestyle setting. Custom home design services are prominently on display, along with various vignette groupings that feature the furniture and furnishings in room settings. The furniture and home décor accents felt right at home with the women’s fashion that you expect from Anthropologie.

It also has elevated its beauty offerings from the expected bath and body, skin care and cosmetics into a wellness concept. This follows the path it first introduced in Palo Alto, California earlier this year when it added a Wellness by Anthropologie shop in its flagship store. The wellness shop features what the company describes as “ethical and conscious” products, including aromatherapy and essential oils, yoga mats, teas and elixirs, snack bags, supplements, and new-age crystal products like face rollers, water bottles, combs and toothbrushes. Some 12 Anthropologie stores already have Wellness by Anthropologie shops, and more are planned for this fall.

The Anthropologie Vision

Speaking to the new vision for Urban Outfitters and its Anthropologie, Terrain and other brands as expressed in Devon Yard, Andrew Carnie, president of home, garden and international Anthropologie Group, said in the latest earnings call, “Dick’s [Urban’s CEO Richard Hayne] original vision for Anthropologie was a complete lifestyle based around our customers’ life, how she dresses, how she decorates her home and how she lives her life.”

Regarding home, the Devon Yards store goes much deeper into the category than it has done previously in brick-and-mortar retail. Up until Devon Yard, Anthropologie’s home business was primarily digital, with “over 60 percent of our sales penetrated online,” Carnie said. “To be honest, we have only scratched the surface in the home business in North America.”

Both Hayne and Carnie say Devon Yard is only the beginning. “It is a wonderful prototype that we would love to see in other places as well,” said Hayne. And Carnie added “There is a lot more to come in this space. It’s great that the home business and wellness and accessories and Anthropologie always look cohesive both online and [in] stores.”

Devon Yards Checks All the Boxes

In my book, Shops that POP!, I outline seven strategies that retailers must use to achieve extraordinary retail success today, what I call the POP! equation. Devon Yard checks all those boxes:

  • Customer involvement – Anthropologie guests are greeted at the door and invited in to explore.
  • Evokes curiosity – Devon Yard has that one nailed. Who isn’t made curious by what looks like a garden center that sells clothes and furniture and offers drinks, food and fine dining?
  • Contagious, electric quality – The attraction to explore and discover is contagious at Devon Yard. All the people in the center, both the staff and the guests, are happy and excited to be there.
  • Convergence in atmosphere, design, merchandise – Every detail at Devon Yard is carefully thought out, from full-sized horse sculpture at the door to the Pennsylvania field stone and reclaimed barnwood throughout.
  • Authentic concept – Devon Yard expands Anthropologie from a women’s clothing store with home décor accents added in into a true lifestyle expression of the Anthropologie brand.
  • Priced right – The value of the shopping experience justifies the prices on the labels here.
  • Accessible & free from pretentions – Devon Yard is the realization of a luxurious horse-country lifestyle, but with a little something that invites everyone without a horse-country budget to enjoy and participate.

Retailers have learned that it is not enough to simply open a store and expect people to shop. They have to offer something more than new products to entice shoppers in. It is as Ken Nisch, chairman of retail design firm JGA says, “Retailers have to give people something to do, then they will shop. But shopping can’t be the thing to do.” Urban Outfitter’s Devon Yard gives them that something to do.

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