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Perspectives

The future of retail innovation: a question of space?

Sophie Maxwell, Futures Director

Technology has accelerated the scope and reach of retail innovation: making it an increasingly bespoke, tailored and customer centric experience. But why is this approach not better reflected – or integrated into – the real retail environment? There is room to design a new space, a new experience, not just signpost another room. Luxury and high-end have already embraced this mindset and it’s time for our supermarkets and multiple retailers to now realiae the opportunity for themselves.

Wegmans has long been a leader with a series of firsts learnt from around the globe: taking us from in-store boulangeries to sushi bars. Wholefoods created the experience of a marketplace while Target is still the only retailer to consistently use collaborations with renowned experts to create shared kudos and give niche brands a route to market, both of which reinforce and reignite their brand. Own label has come such a long way in recent years but it’s still disappointing that our household name retailers are so slow to innovate and elevate their brand experience through their space.

So what is the future? We believe an answer can be found through premiumisation; learning from the luxury sector and allowing us to experience the attributes of the very best and – the newest and most imaginative – and bring them into our everyday lives and lifestyles.

Look at Prada – a store that has consistently changed the design, usage and scope of their spaces. Promising to open 160 new stores last year, mostly thanks to their success in the burgeoning eastern luxury market, Prada recently launched a flagship store in Osaka, Japan. Decorated by French-Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez and long-term architect Roberto Baciocchi. Each floor of the building houses a different section of the Prada collection and has an aesthetic of its own. Burberry also remains one of the pacesetting pioneers of modern branded luxury, integrating the 360 experience by bringing digital into the physical retail arena, while using it to educate the customer on the details and layers of their purchases and now through its introduction of ‘Burberry kisses’ to interact with each other.

What we now need to look at is how we use these kinds of examples to influence store layout more effectively. The irony is that while premiumisation is a growing opportunity area for our supermarket brands at product level, we are not yet looking at how this can also be applied to the overall space and brand experience in mass retail. Selfridges in London has always invested in partnerships with designers and is ahead of the curve with the opening of dedicated Denim and Shoe stores. Stocking 60 brands at all price points from Topshop to Rag & Bone to 7 For All Mankind, this store within a store now covers 26,000 sq ft of space. Some Target stores have now also begun to innovate with space by using themed in-store pop ups, but we believe it can be maximised further and by many more retailers.

Maybe we expect this behaviour more from our high-end stores, but why shouldn’t we expect it from our everyday ones too? The way we shop has changed and we want our retailers to offer everyday and premium and we want it all under one roof, but this doesn’t mean it has to be boring and rigidly functional. It’s not necessarily about resource or redesigning the bricks and mortar space but about finding clever, appropriate and truly original ways to design and experience the space you already have.

Food is an area that is all about innovation right now and we see huge potential for retailers to innovate their spaces to reflect this renaissance of creativity. Why aren’t retailers seizing the opportunity to explore this new direction of food, and its stories and the aspiration, fantasy and the new worlds of delight they open up? At Pearlfisher we once imagined a blue-sky store experience called Seasonaire, an eclectic collection of seasonally themed foods in environments that evolve as different foods come into season. This type of store expression engages consumers and provides retailers with an easy 4-season structure in which to transform their space and extend new offers.

One exciting example of retailing theming at a mass level was last year’s opening of the Shibuya Hikarie tower in Tokyo which aimed to take shopping, dining, entertainment and business to new progressive levels. It was created to target women in the 20-40 age bracket with high levels of disposable income. The concept includes ‘ShinQs’, a new concept in department stores where each of its eight floors is given a different theme, such as “Relax” or “Thrill” rather than Womenswear or Cosmetics. It also has “Switch Rooms” which are differently designed restrooms with special functions, like massage and oxygen bars, to ‘refresh’ oneself.

We know that space is at a premium, so why not premiumise your space? Imagine: the supermarket of the future might just be a place that you actually want to be, an immersive, entertaining and interactive experience.

Originally published on PSFK

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