Grocery stores and coffee shops are starting to charge admission — and it could become more common
Charging admission or a membership fee could be the future of retail.
In a recent Business of Fashion op-ed, author B. Joseph Pine II argues that in today's "experience economy," consumers would pay for the experience of shopping.
"That may sound crazy, but consumers would never go to a movie or a play, a concert or a sporting event, a museum or a theme park, and not expect to pay admission," Pine, who co-authored the book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage. "It is again the time you spend in these places that you value, that makes the experience worth the admission fee."
As thousands of American retail stores shut down and shoppers increasingly turn to e-commerce, retailers will have to come up with inventive ways to survive.
Pine cites Ziferblat Cafe, a small coffee chain in the UK that charges customers for every minute they spend there, and Wingtip, a San Francisco men's store and club that charges dues of up to $3,000 per month, as examples of businesses that do it right.
As young people increasingly move into smaller apartments and homes in urban areas, there will be more demand for common spaces — and a willingness to pay for them.
"You are going to get a place to call your own for however long you want to stay, with books, magazines and newspapers, free internet and some rather sociable people to chat with, if you so choose," Pine writes.
Charging membership fees has been a successful model for Costco, which charges annual admission of between $60 and $120. Walmart's Sam's Club also charges a membership fee.
Amazon has also successfully implemented the pay-to-participate model with its Prime program. About 50% of American households pay for access to certain products and free 2-day shipping.
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