Business Idea: A “touch and feel” Super Store. Or Mall.

I’m in the market for a new laptop. But I am the type of person that likes to touch and feel major electronics purchases before I commit – especially something that is as personal as a laptop computer.

There are three places in Chicago where you can play with laptops – MicroCenter, Best Buy and Frys Electronics.

However, none of these three places have anywhere near the selection you might have online at places like Amazon, Provantage and such. Not to mention the poor customer experience inside each of the stores.

I guess I should count my blessings to even have a partial choice. Many consumers don’t have such a luxury. They’re lucky if they have one store within an hours drive where they can get hands-on experience with a small selection of expensive devices.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a superstore where manufacturers can pay a fee to the operator to have their product on display for consumers to play with?

It wouldn’t be a regular superstore where you can actually purchase the product and walk out with it right way.

Instead, it would just be a place where potential customers can experience a manufacturer’s products in a fun, low-pressure environment. And maybe place an on-line order directly with the manufacturer using dedicated tablets if they find something that they really like.

For someone such as myself, I would spend an entire Saturday in such a store if it had entire product lines from even just half a dozen manufacturers of laptops. Being able to touch and feel 100+ computers from Dell, HP, Razor, Intel, Microsoft, Asus, Lenovo etc. would be amazing. I would drive 2 hours for that opportunity.

Given the amount of products each manufacturer carries, you could probably fill the equivalent of entire malls with ‘stores’ where each manufacturer individually display their product lines in a fun and engaging manner.

For manufacturers it would be a lot cheaper than opening up entire stores in major cities. And the operator of the superstore carries no inventory risk. It will be all about entertainment, brand building and consumer experience.

Or, put another way, the superstore would be more like an experience arcade rather than a standard shopping experience.

Imagine dozens of Apple-store like experiences inside a single mall-like structure. Without the inventory.

And if you can do it at scale – say, a couple of hundred superstores in or near every major city, I think the benefits would be enormous.

If I were a manufacturer and could make one phone call to get my entire product line on display in every major city in America while providing just enough product for demos, I think i would jump at that chance. Trying to do that with an existing retail chain is problematic because your average retailer does not want to stock everything – they only want to stock product that will turn over quickly. But for a display-only customer experience store, the manufacturer can commit their entire product line for the consumer to experience.

And for the operator of this concept? With no inventory to worry about, the fee that needs to be charge to each manufacturer is a straight-forward cost+ calculation with little variability.

I think there is a business to be created here. But it is capital intensive to start up. And, because it is still retail you need someone with a strong retail background as well as a team that can create large-scale entertainment experiences to make it happen.

And, oh, it can make good use of those rapidly emptying malls.

Maybe some ex-executives from Best Buy and Disney can get together and pull this off?

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