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When was the last time an ad made you buy something asks Anthony James

Sample Central store in Dubai

A lot of brands believe that the more is put out there the better, but what it creates is more and more confusion in the consumer market says CEO of Sample Central store worldwide...

October 24, 2012 10:17 by



Upon meeting Anthony James, you immediately feel an inspiring presence of passion for what he believes in. He doesn’t have to be a great salesman to truly convince you that an idea is worth clinging on to and luckily enough, sales is relatively irrelevant to the growth of his industry.

He is the CEO and founder of the Sample Central store worldwide and what he describes as the pioneer of the “Tryvertising” industry, which encapsulates the ‘try before you buy’ retail model. To put it simply, the concept behind the store is to act as a blank canvas for brands to showcase their products in literally whatever way they see fit. For the customers, he describes it as a very unique destination experience.

The store, opened three weeks ago in Dubai is the first franchise expansion to this region – with a plan of expanding into the rest of the GCC. Sample Central is based on the concept that James created in 2007 and, if you judge a book by its cover, you could initially think it’s a supermarket but…

How is it any different than a supermarket?

“You shop for free. Money is not a valid currency in our store. Leave your wallets and money at home,” he chuckles. “Your feedback and your opinion is your currency. You become a member, book appointments for yourself and shop for free.”

Sample Central is a concept that brings to life the ‘theatre of retail’ as well as places customers in the driver’s seat when it comes to brand interaction. For an annual membership of AED 100, members can visit the store as frequently as they please (with a booking); pick out products to take home with them. Because of the simple power of word-of-mouth, the store has 1500 members and growing.

How many products can a customer take at one go?

When a member initially joins, they’re automatically a Bronze member and they can take 5 products home with them each visit, provided they give their feedback on them before the next visit. With each visit and each feedback form filled, they gain loyalty points and eventually they will be upgraded to Silver and Gold members. A consumer can become a member by signing up a form online on our website or physically at the store.

What happens after a member has taken the products and sampled them?

They will have their own web portal created as part of their membership account. After every visit, surveys will appear in their accounts based on the products they checked out. They spend a few minutes giving their honest opinion about each product. That’s all. After that they can book another appointment to visit and take home more products and try others.

What’s the catch?

There is none. The customer’s opinion and feedback is all that the brand really wants. We all have an opinion about something and some have opinions on everything. So it’s just giving the chance to a consumer to be influential.

Can you take anything you want from the store?

There are two categories of products – ones you can only try in the store – and ones you can take home for free with you. Obviously you can’t take a treadmill or power drill home with you but feel fry to play around with anything in the store. If you’re not interested in a particular product, then nobody’s forcing you. Nothing is behind glass; you can touch, feel, try, taste and interact with everything that’s in the store. It’s the ultimate flexibility in a retail space. More importantly, there is no sales pressure because there are no sales people. You would try a product the same way you would in your own home.

Wouldn’t members get bored of the same products?

The stocks are changed every 14 days! So you may not want to try something now but just remember – in two weeks – it might not be here either.

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