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How companies including Office Depot and Joann keep local retail relevant

Today, brick-and-mortar stores have to be more than a place to buy something. They have to become places where we do things such as learn and connect. 

Forbes Online: Retail Revival: How Joann, Office Depot And Even Nordstrom Are Staying Relevant, 2018-Jul-3 by Bryan Pearson

The sewing and fabric chain, once a fixture at strip centers, has made a sharp turn on the path to what many might have thought was obsolescence and is remaking itself. New technology, new creators’ studio, new target market.... Following 18 months of intensive research, the chain has unveiled its concept store in Columbus, Ohio, combining elements of community building and technology. 

The store offers rentable sewing machines and crafting tools for the crafting curious and a service called Sew & Go, through which customers can hand off their projects to seamstresses. There are personal shoppers and a no-wait fabric “cut bar,” where shoppers can drop off their pre-measured orders and selected fabric and receive mobile alerts when they’re ready to be picked up.

Among the key features is a creators’ studio, with a Starbucks counter, for classes and social events such as birthday parties and Girl Scout activities. Also featured are touchscreen kiosks showing Pinterest craft projects, with instructions, that can be personalized by user.... 

Office Depot identified its emerging core market in new business owners and entrepreneurs, many of whom seek the expertise of “Biz Pros.” Its BizBox concept, at 14 locations in Texas, is an all-in-one-box suite of services and networking opportunities where visitors can work, build and collaborate.

The stores, in Austin, include flex workspaces where customers can seek face-to-face expert advice from BizBox professionals in “consulting hubs” and network with fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. There also are designated “Tech Zones” where professional tech support staff can help with computer snafus, smartphone repairs and other common challenges.

The service-led concept, which is planned to expand to other locations, is designed to free up business owners from workaday hindrances so they can focus on innovation and growth. 

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