Luxury brands and department stores are elevating their VIP shopping areas to more exclusive and concierge-driven concepts in a bid to entice customers into physical retail spaces.
This is the decade of personalized retail. In our e-commerce and mobile-first digital age, physical stores are fighting back, drawing upon ever increasing levels of brand-authenticity and experiential tactics to ensure loyal customers choose to shop in flagship locations – where VIP services can be fully optimized.
During heightened shopping periods such as Chinese New Year, Singles Day or the seasonal international fashion weeks in March and September, department stores in particular see increased visitors from high spending globe shoppers. They come for the VIP experience and exclusive product ranges.
Department stores focus on VIP services
Lane Crawford has revamped its Hong Kong flagship to create an apartment-style space split into four dedicated VIP rooms. The inter-connected rooms are themed showcases for exclusive pieces from brands such as Lanvin, Alexander McQueen and Valentino, and will change with seasonal updates. The space is a perfect backdrop for Lane Crawford’s luxury clientele who prefer personal styling appointments and meet-the-designer events where bespoke or one-to-one treatment ensures they are loyal to the department store rather than mono-brand locations.
Selfridges’ International Lounge is dedicated to its globe shopper High Net Worth Individual (HNWI) clientele with a focus on tax-free services and relaxing VIP waiting areas. The lounge is designed to cater to both fast and slow service expectations of clients depending on their nationality and is housed in the department store’s old Palm Court restaurant that previously occupied the space until it was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. Here over 1,600 sq m, a series of grand halls, light-filled rooms and lavish furnishings have been installed to house a larger Global Blue Tax Refund lounge, two Tax Free Shopping halls, VIP areas for personal shopping appointments, a faith room and a dedicated concierge team dedicated to theatre ticket requests.
At Harrods in London, the By Appointment VIP service hosts regular cultural and entertainment themed shopping events. For example, to coincide with its first perfume-themed garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, the By Appointment team of personal shoppers organised a private salon show to showcase the range of exclusive floral and fragrance themed products by participating brands – also on display in the Brompton Road windows. The previous year, it was hit film, The Great Gatsby that was the focus for a 1920s Art Deco themed party, film screening and shoppable video that enticed loyal shoppers to the By Appointment VIP services.
Harvey Nichols has opened a new store concept in Birmingham with a focus on VIP experience and hotel-style concierge services that target customers via personalised technology in-store.
The new store design blurs traditional womenswear, menswear, beauty and accessories departments into each other, across four floors, where the theme of ‘controlled disruption’ is intended to inspire customers to seek out new brands, while also trialing VIP areas such as private shopping lounges. There are increased numbers of personal shoppers, smart fitting rooms with 360-degree mirrors, valet parking and enhanced click-and-collect services.
Harvey Nichols is aiming for a combination of boutique shopping and hospitality style service. ‘Customers have told us they love going into hotels, getting rid of everything as they walk in and having it all taken care of,’ says Shadi Halliwell, group marketing and creative director at Harvey Nichols.
Luxury brands: concierge retail
Penthouse-style apartments are the focus at Louis Vuitton’s Maison concepts in Singapore and Shanghai, where VIP customers can book the entire suite for personal shopping parties or invitation-only styling appointments. The top-floor ‘retail’ spaces retain a lavish interior design: walls are decorated with art collections more at home at well known art galleries and key furniture pieces reflect the opulence most VIP customers are used to at their own homes.
Burberry is increasingly focusing on its limited edition ‘Runway to Reality’ private ordering service through its omnichannel services in-store. Shanghai and Tokyo are the latest flagships to be overhauled in line with its London store where a dedicated Burberry Bespoke concept area takes care of VIP customers who have taken the opportunity to shop the luxury brand’s latest runway collection four months ahead of other retail customers. The luxurious colour-coded store interior mirrors the exclusive ordering service online with a host of one-to-one personal stylists on hand for any iteration of the brand’s personalized monogramming services.
Ralph Lauren is elevating its VIP experience for a select few in a new concept space that is more like a luxury palazzo than a store. Ralph Lauren has closed its Via Montenapoleone location in Milan to make way for a more exclusive, invitation-only concept that offers priority access to the brand’s best customers and a one-to-one personalized selling approach throughout the store. Instead of shopping across Ralph Lauren’s multi-brand format store, guests can sample a lunch and drinks menu on the outdoor terrace or shop from key looks across the brands’ collections from Black Label tailoring to Polo Ralph Lauren sportswear.
Retail Planner takeouts:
- Luxury brands are revamping their stores to become exclusive, invitation only destinations where the sales technique is personalized and more like a hotel concierge service.
- Department stores are back in fashion because they are able to elevate the customer journey to a VIP experience.