A store in Australia has been critized for charging customers $5 to come into the store. In other words, if you're "Just looking," it's going to cost you five bucks.
While many people have criticized the store for taking such a bold step, creating a "cover charge" to enter a store isn't such a crazy idea. You just need to frame it right, and provide enough value for the fee.
If you want to enter a SAM's Club, you need to show your membership card at the door. To get that membership card, you must pay between $40 and $100 annaualy.
If I want to take my family to an amusement park, I'll have to pay to enter the park, then I'll also have to pay to go on rides, and have refreshments.
If you want to go into a nightclub, you'll have to pay a cover charge (after waiting in line). Then you still must pay for drinks once you're inside.
Here's The Point:
People are used to paying cover charges to enter an establishment. What makes it acceptable is the value received for the cover charge. This value can take different forms.
In the SAMS's club example, the value is lower prices.
In the nightclub, the value is the pure experience: a unique environment, with a perceived entertainment value. The amusement park value is similar - a unique experience.
In the best-selling book, "The Experience Economy," authors Joseph Pine and James Gilmore explain this dynamic well:
"The history of all economic progress consists of charging a fee for what once was free."
Charging a $5 fee to enter the store isn't such a crazy idea. If the retailer can create a "wow" experience that will cause customers to want to go inside, the $5 cover charge will be considered a true bargain, instead of an outlandish insult.
And of course, the retailer must also frame the fee as an admission for the experience, instead of a penalty for "showrooming."
If you can deliver a unique experience, customers will not only willingly pay for that experience, but they'll bring their friends with them, and gladly wait in line to pay you for it.