Care to the Throne

The in-store sofa is a life-saver. Not only is it designed to give refuge to blistered and aching feet, it also serves as an oasis of calm in an otherwise chaotic retail environment. Especially on the weekends, comfortable seating offers a much welcomed respite from the multitude of shoppers and the never-ending queues.

Better still, a seat bestowed upon a weary customer is, more often than not, an indication of good service. Indeed, the establishment in question appears to have gone out of its way to address its clients’ needs, including those who have no interest whatsoever in the wares on offer. A quaint seating area is an amiable touch; not always required, but nonetheless appreciated.

Yet, retailers beware! Though much attention is given to a sofa’s location, there is a risk of over-thinking its installation.

Take COS, for example—the “affordable-chic” venture by Swedish high-street giant, H&M. At their boutique in Den Haag, a two-seater couch is generously provided for customers on the ground floor. This being a design-centric fashion brand with a clear target market, each in-store element strategically contribute to its overall brand identity, from the displays and mannequins to the hipster staff dawning bright-red lipstick, thick framed glasses and top knot hairdos. The sofa is no exception. COS has even gone so far as to entertain their seated guests, leaving a pile of quality reading material for them to peruse.

Now this is all well and good, up until the weekend when a madding crowd had descended upon the branch and the only paraphernalia made purposely available were women’s magazines. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. In fact, the boutique had chosen a number of excellent titles —The Gentle Woman, Jackie and the obligatory, inaugural issue of Dutch Vogueall befitting its meticulously curated space. On this occasion, however, management seemed to be forgetting who (normally) sits on the sofa to begin with. More often than not, it is an utterly exhausted, disgruntled or rather bored gentleman.

As with most RTW brands on the high street nowadays, the bulk of inventory, not to mention retail space, is allotted to womenswear. Presumably, women come into a store like COS to shop, not to sit down. And with the sleek, often unconventional cuts and fabrics that this particular brand has to offer, fitting the garments is a definite must.

Consequently, their male counterparts are left waiting, preferably on a soft cushionwhat with a petite men’s department, making up only a quarter of the actual store. Ideally, diverse publications on hand would be a merciful reprieve from the anguish of boredom. Though it is doubtful whether a women’s glossy would lessen the stress of patience running thin.

Thankfully, one of the staff shared this same sentiment and offered to correct the overlooked detail. Unsurprisingly, the men’s periodicals were tucked away in the gentlemen’s section on the floor abovea worrisome prospect for a man in waiting. Trust that he would much rather take a seat with his smartphone in hand, than go all the way up and fetch them.

While the in-store couch is an opportunity to further brand identity, it is, first and foremost, a safe haven for the weary. Much consideration must be given to the seat’s raison d’etre before all other trimmings are put in place. Needless to say, determining whom the seat for is of equal importance. Otherwise it would be a waste of totally good retail space, better allocated for more womenswear.✌

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