If the UK has anything that bears even a passing resemblance to Apple, it’s Dyson. Hand dryers and vacuum cleaners might not have the same techie allure as iPhones and smart watches but Dyson is a product designer in a class of its own that’s growing and creating jobs – even if its manufacturing is mostly outsourced to Asia.
And now it’s getting into retail. Although it has previously opened showrooms in Paris, Japan and Indonesia, the launch of its ‘Dyson Demo’ store on London’s Oxford Street tomorrow will be its first foray into bricks and mortar on home turf. MT got a sneak peak behind the curtain today and Apple’s influence is clear.
Dyson’s products, including its new 360 Eye robotic vacuum cleaner, starting at £799.99, and its range of lights designed by James Dyson’s son Jake, are lined up on minimalistic white plinths and there’s no checkout in sight. Hundreds of uplit jars of breakfast cereal, rice and lentils sit on shelves at the back, ready to be scattered on the floor and cleaned up in product demonstrations.
Its CEO Max Conze is at pains to point out it’s not a store but a ‘demo space’ because it’s ‘about explaining and bringing a life our technology and adding value for Dyson owners.’ Nonetheless those keen to buy will be obliged. The official rationale of the store is to show customers why Dyson’s products are worth the money, but it will also allow the company to retain more of the profit margin that would normally go to other retailers. It will also help stimulate sales through its own online shop.
If the ground floor resembles an Apple Store, upstairs has the feeling of a museum dedicated to Dyson’s new hairdryer, the Supersonic. Glass and black wood stairs straight out of the Tate Modern lead to displays explaining the science behind the product and the functions of its inner components.
A machine demonstrates how it works on the hair of a mannequin and at the back visitors can get a wash and blow dry. With a price tag of almost £300 the Supersonic was a bold move for Dyson. But it’s not hard to see how it could be popular with the sort of consumer who’s willing to shell out £100 for a cut and colour at Toni & Guy, and the company says its pre-order units have all sold out.
Dyson says this store has been years in the making but there are more on the way soon and the company hopes to open more in other major cities in the near future. It’s unlikely the company’s home appliances will draw leagues of crowds to queue up overnight in the way Apple’s knick-knacks do. But it’s clear that despite advances in ecommerce there’s still plenty of appetite for high street stores – they’re just going to look a little different in the future.