New community commerce
Being part of the community will be important to brands that combine retail with offline social activities and events, and offer one-stop-shop experiences.
Lululemon is an advocator of experiential retail, frequently hosting free yoga classes in its stores. Its latest flagship location in New York’s Flatiron District, is its most ambitious and community focused project to date. Hub 17 is designed to host not only regular yoga and fitness workshops but also arts and lifestyle programming including The Gathering (a regular dinner series featuring local chefs and restaurants), The Frame (a monthly film screening courtesy of Rooftop Films), and Super Sundays (a weekly musical performance showcasing up-and-coming talent). In-store concierges complete the full service environment.
Retail and social relevance are dovetailing with Nike’s Community Store program, which continues to expand across the US. The brand is positioning its latest store concept in the heart of the local community in Brooklyn’s Flatbush area and is committed to hiring at least 80% of staff from a five-mile radius within the neighborhood. This connection with the brand’s core local demographic is the base for how Nike sourced the location, ‘we wanted a place that was instantly recognizable, that expressed the unique spirit of Flatbush and Brooklyn and that amplified the values of the Nike brand,’ says Dennis van Oossanen, vice president of Nike’s North America Direct to Consumer business.
‘New York’s oldest new neighborhood’ is the mantra for the Seaport Studio pop-up shops at the Seaport District in Manhattan where property company Howard Hughes Corp. is reinvigorating this historic area, rebuilding Pier 17 and constructing a four-story glass building that features a rotating mix of fashion designers, food and drinks stalls and entertainment on the roof.
Taking a long-term view, brands increasingly nurture consumers, providing space and support for external innovation and entrepreneurship at every stage of their life to create true brand loyalty.
Over the last two years major retailers such as John Lewis, Tesco, Wal-mart and Westfield have launched ‘retail labs’ or in-house innovation hubs installed to provide insights on cutting-edge technology trends to inform future strategy.
JLAB is a 12-week accelerator programme run by John Lewis designed to bring start-up innovators to the large retailer. Playing around with how tech might work in-store is important for the future of the business,’ says John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis. ‘We need to recognise if it’s a gimmick or not, he says, explaining one of JLab’s key rolls is to foster a ‘no holds barred’, Room Y, where the team can think by making. Vary says JLab has a Trojan horse affect, that changes the attitude to innovation from within. Key is the mentoring and facilitating of new ideas that might drive new customer engagement, interactivity and ultimately sales across any channel.
As consumers become more used to smart devices and technology in the home to make their lives more convenient, retailers need to showcase Internet of Things products with this digitally savvy consumer in mind. In 2015, US retail giant Target launched Open House in San Francisco, an experimental pop-up space dedicated to showing and selling smart home devices. Target’s aim was to create a platform that was ‘part retail space, part lab’ for brands to show off creative uses for their products in a 1:1 scale model home and at the same time educate customers about the latest devices that are in fact ready and waiting to turn their homes into connected smart hubs.
Westfield has gone one better than a simple in-house innovation lab. At its San Francisco location the mall operator has launched Bespoke, a monolithic co-working space that is now home to a host of retail technology start-ups that can experiment on potentially 20m shoppers annually. This latest venture from Westfield Labs is spread over 37,000 sq ft and is a testing ground for a community of retail or technology start-ups that can run pop-up retail tests or stage events in a dedicated event space. It’s a win-win for Westfield that both connects to innovation and attracts a technology hungry new audience through its doors.
Retailers are creating department store style districts with a strong sense of place, culture and history in a fightback against the convenience of online shopping. Meanwhile department stores are recasting themselves as hangout areas, driven by lifestyle demographics rather than merchandise categories. Dwell time is the primary concern for department store brands keen to provide relevant spaces for their community.
The Meatpacking District has new-found upmarket appeal and a fresh visual identity to match, courtesy of design agency Base that has redesigned the district’s website and hoarding fascias to reflect its split personality history. ‘The Meatpacking District is full of stark contrasts – heritage and future, chic and gritty, night and day, culture and commerce, high heels and cobblestones,’ says Base partner Geoff Cook. ‘We aimed to capture the spirit and essence of those distinctive juxtapositions through the visual identity.’
Covent Garden, perhaps one of London’s best known and oldest shopping districts, recently entered the digital era by launching The Pass, an app that helps people navigate its streets and shops, and rewards them with more targeted offers. While the new app is a clever move to personalize the retail district’s shopping experience, it is the way CapCo’, Covent Garden’s landlord, has upped its game, acting more like a nimble department store through collaborations, pop-ups and events that is to be applauded. If Covent Garden lost its mojo in the age of the shopping mall, it’s back on form now.
Covent Garden is acting like a department store with dedicated areas for beauty, menswear and luxury brands, says Beverly Churchill, creative director of CapCo. ‘Through the new app we are offering our visitors a tailored, expert-driven shopping experience, which can help them make the most of their trip with offers that are highly relevant to them,’ she says. The technology allows both retailer and consumer to benefit, since CapCo’s visitor data gives brands that are part of the scheme valuable insights on consumer habits and product preferences. ‘We want Covent Garden to be an international shopping destination with reputation for an ‘insider experience’ courtesy of The Pass,’ adds Churchill.
European department stores have long existed as miniature urban community hubs. Over the next few years, German department store KaDaWe, Berlin is having a major refit courtesy of architecture firm OMA, that wants to challenge the very concept of the department store as a singular mass location. Instead the redesign project, aims to offer four distinct retail quadrants, with unique architectural and commercial qualities – targeting demographics for ‘classic’, ‘experimental’, ‘young’ and ‘generic’. Described by OMA as: ‘four department stores under one single roof, fragmenting the original mass into smaller, easily accessible and navigable components, similar to distinct urban sectors embedded into a unifying city fabric’.
There are two key trends that are driving the renaissance of department stores. Firstly, they are re-emerging phoenix-like as destinations to seek out expertise, VIP services and unparalleled one-to-one shopping. Secondly they are back in fashion as places to visit for the curated, edited experience that can provide an experimental shopfloor showcase for early adopters or consumers looking for niche product ranges.
Selfridges has taken the wellness retail trend and is running with it. Opening in spring 2016, the department store will launch a 37,000 sq ft Body Studio area on an entirely new floor. The floor, it’s largest ever new concept space is dedicated to fitness, eating clean and body image and will feature a huge new lingerie, nightwear and activewear brand offer. Located on the top floor in former office space, it will stock more than 100 brands, as well as a wellness café. The new development will debut with the theme ‘Everybody’, celebrating the body and inner beauty.
Also this spring, Harvey Nichols is relaunching its menswear department as a contemporary lifestyle hub for men to seek fashion inspiration from streetwear to formal suiting. Taking Rapha as it’s ‘community’ cue, Harvey Nichols is merging its usual fashion, accessories and high-end designer departments into a more seamless lifestyle floor where a central café and open-space workshop area will serve to pull different genres and creative inspiration together.
Consumers’ growing desire to live a healthy lifestyle has given rise to wellness hubs that combine retail and hospitality amenities in one space.
The trend for fitness retail is geared towards the times of the day people fit exercise into their busy lives. Consumers are increasingly looking for one-stop destinations where they can sweat, socialize and unwind in a harmonious way. What began as a US West Coast movement with yoga and eating-clean hangout The Springs, is now a global phenomenon. Gyms, spas, nutritional advice and training support are all pre-requisites for eco-systems for wellness location retail.
The Point in Los Angeles’ El Segundo area is a new 115,000 sq ft retail complex that offers a variety of stores and outdoor eateries geared to wellness lifestyle. Stores include activewear brand Prana, women’s dance and yoga clothing retailer Athleta, the Six:02 retail concept, as well as a new outpost of SoulCycle.
‘The Six:02 concept is interesting because it is all day fitness: from 6am gym sessions to work and from work to soccer mum,’ says Chute Gerdeman’s Shafley. ‘It’s also a community resource where customers can network or partner with training experts in-store.
‘The void for me was, where can I go to drink a cup of tea, get my work done, and take a class?’ says Tal Rabinowitz, founder of new meditation space, The Den. The homely feel of the drop-in centre combines mindfulness with the casual subtleties of a clubhouse mentality, designed to help people unwind with a matcha tea (say) – on their own or with friends – take some time out of their busy schedule or feel inspired enough to work uniterupted. ‘I want customers to have balance in their life… to learn how to be centered, while still getting stuff done,’ she says.
Ethos, a hybrid yoga and fitness UK brand is expanding from Cambridge to Shoreditch in London with an all-encompassing studio and café space set to both allow customers to work out and chill out, says Michael Sheridan, director of Sheridan & Co, who designed the retail and workout space.
The Ethos slogan is ‘mind body alchemy’ says Sheridan who also worked on the branding, which features five ‘ancient world’ symbols – a key aspect of the brand’s DNA, which enables the brand to expand out its product range alongside the fitness offer. ‘There’s holistic brand depth there. The Studio has everything from yoga to a juice bar, wine and food. We’ve created a brand thread that runs as deep as you want. ’
Dawn-till-dusk food temples
The latest retail buzz isn’t based around malls crammed with fashion boutiques, but around food. Food markets that serve up best-in-class global dishes where local expertise is curated and repackaged for cosmopolitan cities like New York and London.
It’s not enough to launch a pop-up Asia-style hawker food market these days, now the trend is to gastronomise the street-food trend and tier the food offer for a mix of entertainment and dining in one social, urban experiment.
New York chef and entertainer, Anthony Bourdain is set to open a hotly anticipated mega food market on Pier 57 in New York in 2017. Dubbed the Bourdain Market, it will feature selection of 100 food vendors from New York, and will also house a Singapore-style hawker market with street food stands and communal eating spaces. Bourdain told the New York Times, he has been driven by his determination to bring people closer to the kind of kinetic experiences he shows on TV and to share the food he is passionate about.
The Time Out publishing brand is launching food markets in cities around the world, building on its 2014 experiment that transformed Lisbon’s Mercado de Ribeira into a foodie heaven, that combined some of the city’s best chefs, shops and restaurants in one inspirational, local destination. A dedicated London food market is planned for 2017 and Time Out London has confirmed the British edition will be ‘packed to the rafters with the city’s best food, booze, art and cool cultural shenanigans.’ A New York location will follow in 2018.
London Union is the company behind the capital’s Street Feast and Dinerama pop-up hawker markets, which founders Henry Dimbleby and Jonathan Downey say, despite their hugely popular yet derelict warehouse origins, will have a permanent home soon. Dimbleby compares London Union’s business model to the Apple app store. ‘We’re very reliant on our traders – we create the vibe for them to come to, but they are the magic dust,’ he told Management Today.
Crowd-scaping; local proximity brands
Brands are using geo-location data to measure and monitor footfall enabling them to personalise the retail experience. The increased desire of consumers for real-time, location sensitive information also speaks to the growing importance of mobile in driving retail.
Smartphone shopping has created a new ‘front door to the store’ mindset among retailers, according to a recent Think with Google report. 75% of Target customers start their shopping journey on a mobile, and the US retail giant channels this mindset to target the further third of its customers who click on a mobile search advertisement and then visit a Target store.
Being close to the store that sells a searched for product is also key to driving e-commerce from mobile to store according to Google, that reports consumers are hungrier than ever for local information. While mobile shopping-related searches increased 120% in the last year, those with ‘near me’ included, have grown 2.4 times in 2015 vs 2014. Furthermore, a 2015 Google Consumer Survey found that 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day, and 18% of those searches lead to a purchase.
Google now allows users to monitor footfall at the same time they search for a store location or opening times. Layered on top, is its Local Inventory Ads program, which allows mobile advertising to be targeted to consumers based on whether a given product is in stock at nearby retail outlets, and even includes information on how far away a consumer is from a given store. Google says consumer attitudes to mobile shopping are changing with a bigger emphasis being put on using the nearest physical store location more like a local distribution centre, where they can pop in quickly to pick up a product they’re researched in advance. For its Digital Impact on In-Store Shopping study, Google reported respondents listed ‘product availability at a nearby store’ (74%) and ‘pricing at that store’ (75%) as the two most useful search result terms. Soon consumers will become more used to digital people counters such as Density, a piece of retail software that measures footfall in stores, better informing them when is the best time to pop out for convenience or browsing led shopping decisions.
Facebook is adding richer, more localized footfall plus (anonymous) aggregated demographic data to the brands that advertise on the platform, in effect telling brands more about who’s near their stores and importantly who has seen their advertisments. The new location-based advertising platform for brands is likely to push more foot traffic into physical stores and brands will be able to tailor their advertisements to appropriate customer demographics when they are nearby, according to analysis by AdAge.
Brands and like-minded collaborators are curating retail environments using art and editorial to tell stories and bring concepts to life.
Le Bon Marche’s Brooklyn themed retail experience was an autumn/winter 15 highlight at the Parisian department store that chose to spotlight a range of local designers and artisans in-store inspired by the largest New York borough’s infectious community spirit and sense of independent creativity. Items from more than 100 different Brooklyn purveyors were on sale, including Catbird jewellery, Kinfolk men’s wear and Mast Brothers chocolates.
This idea of curating a ‘community spirit’ into a retail concept is literally swapping continents and proves local can be global.
Avant-garde luxury label McQ has refurbished a Grade II listed building in Spitalfields, and made it its new home. The interiors feature blackened steel details, blood red paintwork and original brick work, but most interesting is the decision to dedicate the whole lower ground floor to art. The gallery space in the store will provide a platform for emerging artists. Artist Ermias Kifleyesus is the first to take over the space, with an exhibition that takes images created by fashion photographer Harley Weir for McQ, and allows the public to deface and engage with them – a nod to the brand’s rebellious spirit.
Mr. Porter worked with Japanese retailer BEAMS on a capsule collection and pop-up retail showcase of six Japan-based brands for London Collections Men. The selection was informed by designers that represent an ethos of craftsmanship and artisan approach to design and manufacturing in keeping with ‘the BEAMS mantra,’ says Vice President Keishi Endo. ‘We’re proud of being a part of this cohabiting platform to bring more awareness and recognition to Japanese fashion in western markets.’
Nordstrom Space is a new concept boutique in-store at larger Nordstrom locations and is intended to shake up the status quo with contemporary labels that are hard to find in the US. The pop-in store fits are a burst of colour and creativity that was described by the New York Times as ‘for customers who are fanatical about fashion’. Space is curated by Olivia Lim, the department store’s new director of creative projects and Opening Ceremony alumni, who says Space is about moving out of your comfort zone.