Trend forecasting agencies have all been identifying experiential shopping as the future of retail. With the maturing of Millennials and Gen Z, the retail environment is in a state of evolution. As experiences have become more important and a desire for human interaction draws customers back into brick-and-mortar stores, creating in-store experiences has become an invaluable tool for retailers. In the children’s market, one of the companies that has been leading the way in building stores around experiences rather than products is CAMP. With a successful pivot during pandemic lockdowns, CAMP has successfully done this both in-store and online. Here at Playtime, we are all about innovation and offering new ideas and trends to our lovely community! Get inspired on how to integrate experiential shopping into your store by this analysis of CAMP’s success!


Let’s go learn something new at CAMP!


kid's store

The retailer CAMP launched in 2018 with the goal to answer the question “What should we do today?” for families everywhere. They answer this question by creating a hybrid environment of shop and play, where kids are encouraged to touch everything in the store, rather than being told not to.

Customers go behind the “Magic Door” to enter these experience-based areas where there are no products on display and CAMP employees (called “counselors”) put on magic shows, perform music, or lead organized crafts. The focus is put on these experiences and families spending time together, with the products on sale outside the Magic Door almost an afterthought to offer a physical souvenirfor the amazing day families just spent together. With a rotation of themes that change quarterly, families can visit CAMP throughout the year and have a different experience each time, or visit multiple locations during the same period to discover the different themes. This model encourages repeat visits and fun day trips to other CAMP locations.

The themes all celebrate and encourage different experiences that are great for teaching children about the world in a fun way. There is Base Camp, which is centered around the traditional ideas of a camp, exploring the beauty of nature, storytelling, and crafts. They have Travel Camp that lets families have a tea party in London, swim the Great Barrier Reef, go on an African safari, and cross a hanging bridge in the forests of Costa Rica. Cooking Camp teaches children about food from farm to table and Toy Lab Camp offers a kid-friendly shopping experience. All of the themes encourage curiosity, discovery, and important lessons.

In 2020, when the pandemic resulted in lockdowns around the world, CAMP took their experiential shopping to their online store by offering 1 hour of free programming for kids every day, with engaging and interactive shows that had them glued to their screens. CAMP then developed their Present Shop, which is a kid-friendly and kid-safesection of their site where children can make purchases via the credits and parameters their parents set up. In the Present Shop, kids are guided by CAMP’s mascot, Scout the bear, who helps them through the game-like experience to shop for themselves, family, or friends. When shopping for others, kids can design their own greeting card to be sent along with the present, and the overall experience gives them a sense of accomplishment and independence. Whether shopping for themselves or others, the Present Shop offers a selection of age appropriate products for kids to choose from.

CAMP has created their business model around a desire to put excitement back into toy storesthrough the creation of memorable moments to be shared by kids and their families. By having an inclusive offer that encourages the intellectual education of children as well, CAMP is offering families a way to have conversations with their children about complicated social topics. Other experience-based retailers have used methods like free samples of food at Costco, interactive and high-tech fitting rooms at Farfetch, and stores tailored to the local design aesthetics through ample research of home decor preferences in the area when Ikea opens stores.

To cultivate experiential shopping, retailers should look to their strengths that tie them to their community. Whether a local shop with one or two brick-and-mortars or a store that is completely online, by incorporating a defining color scheme, local events, or value-added services, you can incorporate experience-based shopping into your strategy. Millennials began this trend by putting a focus on experiences over owning objects, with Gen Z taking this trend a step further and not only wanting experiences, but a sense of community. The simple act of establishing an area dedicated to play, with couches or chairs for parents to sit and watch over their little ones, allows for an experience within a store by creating a space that customers want to relax and spend time in. Hosting local events, online forums, and/or creating kid-friendlyshopping environments are just a few of the ways to appeal to the parents of tomorrow and today!

The key-component that seems to be bringing CAMP and the other retailers experimenting with experiential shopping such success is the idea of “please touch”, where interacting with the productsand displays is encouraged. This emphasizes the strength of brick-and-mortar in contrast to online shopping because customers can feel and test the product for themselves. For online retailers, establishing interactions between customers with the brand or each other and offering product suggestions or guides are great ways to incorporate an elevated experience and use the strength of online stores being accessible from around the world and at the shopper’s convenience to your advantage. As opposed to the traditional models of retail that sought to get customers in and out (or on and offline) as quickly as possible, CAMP and other experience-based stores are designed to spend hours in having fun as a family. By incorporating this into online shops as well, customers are encouraged to look around and get inspired by a sense of community rather than just a shopping experience.

With the increasing number of brands joining the Metaverse, the lines between physical and digitalshopping experiences continue to blur. The use of technology within brick-and-mortar stores is becoming more accessible, while online marketplaces within the Metaverse continue to grow. New brands are creating NFTs, designing their own virtual shops, and even participating in the first Metaverse Fashion Week at the end of March. As pioneers of the phygital experience, Playtime is here to guide you through the constantly evolving use of technology in the kid’s universe!


Want to learn more about experiential shopping?

[Re]watch the seminar about Gen Z hosted by Earnshaw’s at the last edition of Playtime & Kid’s Hub New York, and be sure to join us at the next Playtime Paris and Playtime & Kid’s Hub New York shows to gain further insights into market trends at conferences you can’t see anywhere else!


All images from Camp
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Madeline Blankenship
Madeline Blankenship