AT&T plans to eliminate sales counters, registers, information placards and printers from 15 to 20 of its retail locations by the end of the year and will continue to roll out the less-cluttered design to more of its 2,300 U.S. stores into 2014.
"It's a pretty radical departure from what we've done in the past," AT&T Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher said in a recent interview. "We want people to try, play with and ultimately buy our products...If [shopping] was just transaction based, customers could do it on the web."
All the above items have long been mainstays of the retail experience, but AT&T now believes they are extraneous at best, and discomforting at worst. By removing them from its stores, AT&T hopes to make customers more at ease with using, and in turn purchasing, the products on display.
In lieu of cash registers, AT&T's store employees will become the latest in the retail space to be equipped with tablets and mobile point-of-sale systems. Already the likes of Puma, Barney's and Sephora have given employees tablets to ease the checkout process.
AT&T's new stores will also have flat screens that can be updated overnight rather than taking weeks to replace in-store signage. Kohl's recently rolled out e-signs nationally, allowing the retailer to easily change prices remotely.
And instead of customers having to discuss details of their phone plans across a counter, AT&T has installed booths where employees and customers can speak privately at a table.
"It's much more inviting and warmer to be side-by-side discussing a solution than across the counter from somebody," Mr. Christopher said.
Orange, typically AT&T's accent color, will be the predominant color on display in the new stores. The stores will also feature residential-style furniture and wood paneling made from reused teak. The design is meant to be "warm" and "inviting." "Everything is designed to be as if you were in a friend's living room," said Mr. Christopher. AT&T worked with retail design firm Callison on the new layouts.