The coming "experetail" boom

By Jason Calacanis , written on February 26, 2013

From The News Desk

Retail is fracked.

It's so obvious to those of us with Amazon Prime accounts, Zappos, on our iPhones and bookmarked. Marc Andreessen said all retail will be gone, and that's not as earth-shattering a prediction as it seems.

If you can save time or money you're probably going to do it -- if you can do both? Game over.

I haven't had to pick up coffee, razors, deodorant, shoes, or shirts in a couple of years. The only time we go shopping any more is for perishables or an "emergency run" as we call it. I'm guessing if you're on this list, you're like us.

However, I took my daughter to the Disney Store last month, and we had a blast looking at everything. Her favorites were the mirrors from "Snow White" and the video jukebox. She didn't want to buy anything, even after I gave her multiple choices of her favorite characters. I bought a "Peter Pan" playset out of guilt for the mouse company -- sympathy buy since we were there for an hour playing with stuff.

She had enough of an experience that she didn't need to purchase anything.

I find myself doing that as well at shoe stores, the Apple store or Saks. In fact, I looked for a new wallet at Saks, and they were so overpriced ($100?!), that I pulled up the top wallets on Amazon while in the store and ranked them by popularity. They were all $10-$25. I bought three of the top 10 for less than $50. I have two backup wallets now in my valet. I'm done for the next 10 years -- at least.

Everything will come crashing down and Amazon will win it all -- it's certain. So what then?

In other words, working backwards from Sequoia's "Why now?" what founder with what product would answer "because retail is dead and everyone orders online!"

The answer?

The founder of a startup that creates experiences in old retail spaces. [Note: this is not a real company. I just made it up. Experetail is short for "experience-based retail"... Note No. 2: Experetail is pronounced like "fairy tale."]

I'm writing this from the Nespresso Boutique in Union Square on my iPhone. There are machines everywhere, not to mention those unconscionable little pods that are unnecessarily filling landfills by the millions every week -- perhaps day.

This is "showrooming" at its best: order perfectly prepared treats in a gorgeously lit room by perfectly fit and happy staffers. It feels like "Gattaca" meets Disneyland. That halo is you being indoctrinated into the "cult of the pod" -- and if this place is any indication, it's working. Showrooming is "monetized marketing" as you get this huge living billboard for free if you can move enough macaroons and pods.

If you're Tesla or Apple, you're wildly profitable from selling just a small amount of product. Apple can probably pay rent on any of its stores after selling a dozen iPhones and iPads in a day. Tesla can pay its rent with one or two Model Ss every quarter, I bet.

[Image courtesy PerformanceSolutions]