Shopping experiences are continually becoming ubiquitous and repetitive, however, a walk along the high street this new year and you will see plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of retail. There are cases of both large and small brands showing extra consideration to the retail experiences they offer. It is often the largest brands that fall into the category of creating repetitive experiences; focusing on conversion and shifting products, especially when occupying large, multi-story units in the best locations. Visiting these stores often feels like a jungle of product with little consideration to how customers use the space. However, there is an interesting case study on most high streets now, Swedish brand, & Other Stories.
Case Study 01: & Other Stories
The brand was established in 2010 and with the support of the H&M group they are gaining prime location stores in numerous cities. For example, a two-story retail destination at the heart of Oxford Street, London. The stores have a clinical style, with a consistent use of simple typefaces, a striped-back pallet and clever introductions of greenery. The brand is a ‘one-stop styling destination’ for personal beauty with a clear value for individuality that can be felt through the stores and on their digital platforms.
In terms of retail practice, this really feels like a pop-up. All the fixtures are temporary and hanging graphic communication has a cool ‘make-do’ feel. This is an example of a large, highstreet brand that really considers their use of space. Not always displaying as much product as possible, they allow space for the right experiences. For example, their beauty range is supported with large sinks for product demonstrations, where customers are free to try out numerous skin care products in front of a stylish, on-brand, bathroom set-up. Over the Christmas period the brand left large spaces to set up a workshop table ready for customers who needed gift wrapping. The trestle table supported the pop-up feel and the wrapping tools laid out provided a crafty feel. The & Other Stories stores leave space for customers to navigate and create their own journey, these spaces feel like much more than a store, as their name suggests this destination leaves space for other stories.
This is a case study of a large brand taking a more creative and unique approach. Clearly influenced by the demand for pop-up stores and trends for limited product runs, & Other Stories have curated a well-executed example of contemporary retail. It is usually smaller brands that are known to pop-up in relevant locations and create more considered showcases of their ranges like & Other Stories have done. This is still the case, with some smaller brands are taking a fresh approach to these pop-ups, a great example of this was the L’estrange store in Soho.
Case Study 02: L’Apartment
L’Estrange is a small start-up founded in 2013 to create timeless, tailored menswear. Although the pop-up has now closed as they move onto their next venture, their presence in Soho was an extension of their studio. While the teams had their work space out the back, the front of the space became a physical representation of their brand DNA. Named the L’Apartment, the retail space had a relaxed, lounge feel. The style matched the product; a simple, muted pallet with premium, modern furnishings. Collaborations with multiple brands such as Future and Found, who create elegant homeware, helped curate a luxury, apartment feel. With a strong online presence, the L’Estrange physical space acts as a destination for clients to come and see, touch and try products. Clients is the key word here, as L’Estrange offer a superior service with time slots available to book. Customers receive a personal service when they visit, coffee, lounge areas and popcorn create a space to chill out, with soft-sell products positioned for customers to explore. Mood boards and magazines help the studio feel to spill into the space and all visitors are invited to have a photo taken which is pinned up to a wall showcasing the L’Estrange community.
“We believe that the future of retail exists in creating more than just a regular store experience. With 'The L'Estrange Apartment' we collaborated with a number of different brands that reflect our aesthetic and ethos to create a home from home experience - a more relaxed space to explore our world and clothes.” - L'Estrange
This is a small brand with a big mentality, taking extreme care with how their brand is represented physically. A consideration that has become more important with the rise in online shopping and potential decreases in physical footfall. It is exciting to see what comes next for this brand whose physical presence has become more and more considered each time they pop-up.
The most interesting thing with these case studies is that the two brands are a complete contrast in both size and concept. The consistency comes from the decision to think differently. These brands are not letting their competition dictate their offering, nor letting the size of their space dictate what they put in it. Instead they have curated spaces that are right for the customers that use them.
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