Can retailers sell more experiences, not just “stuff”?

There is an evolving pattern — especially among younger consumers — of spending more disposable income on experiences (travel, restaurants) and less on merchandise. Some retailers have a natural opportunity in this business if it’s true to their brand. Here’s my recent comment from RetailWire:

For retailers like REI and Cabela’s, offering adventure trips is true to the brand — and those purchasers will probably buy some supplies while they’re at it. Likewise for stores like Sur La Table, which surely sells kitchen equipment to shoppers who receive gift certificates good toward cooking lessons. It would be tougher — but not impossible — for a broadlines merchant like Macy’s or Kohl’s to offer travel packages, although Costco has certainly figured it out.

As to the broader question of “share of giving”? I would say “Absolutely,” based on our evolving pattern of giving to our own Millennial children. The gift might be a restaurant e-card, or an airline credit, at least as often as it might be a retail gift certificate or an actual item of clothing. I’m sure we’re not alone, and our children’s Hanukkah gift back to us also fell into the “experience” category.

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