This is what the shops of the future will be (and already are) like lifestyle
In the golden age of ecommerce, brick-and-mortar premises are responding by becoming spaces where shopping goes beyond a simple transaction. From digital integration to experience creation, we unpick the seven concepts set to shape their future.
From lockdown and self-isolating to remote working, our current circumstances have seen online shopping become a daily habit. Today, all companies and brands have an online presence, but brick-and-mortar shops are still the main point of contact between consumers and products: 65% of consumers still prefer to buy in person. So how does this all fit with our current landscape of restricted movement and social distancing? “The store isn’t dead; it’s just evolving”, reads the latest report on the Business of Fashion platform. There’s now a pressing need for safety measures ranging from broader spaces to ways of avoiding physical contact – for example when paying. But there is also personalisation, sustainability, the use of technology and creating a shopping experience that goes beyond purely buying.
1. The shops of the future… will be sustainable
Corporate social and environmental responsibility has become a determining factor in our decision to buy, and the ramifications of this new concern span everything from the composition of jeans – responsible cotton essential – to the energy a store uses to power its light bulbs. This is why the latest Levi’s store to open in London’s Soho in October places a serious emphasis on its sustainable and circular focus: from the repairs service to lengthen the life of your 501s to recycling technologies. Supermarket chain Ekoplaza has opened its first 100% plastic free space in Amsterdam. And the iconic halls of La Samaritaine in Paris, with a renovation entrusted to SANAA, will be powered by green energy when it reopens this year.
2. The shops of the future… will offer an experience
In stark contrast to the convenience of shopping in your pyjamas from your armchair, brick-and-mortar shops give consumers the kind of added value that the internet would have a hard time competing with: the capacity to turn a transaction into an experience. Whether by adding an art exhibition into the equation, as at the Dries Van Noten flagship, or a dedicated selfie space like the incredibly instagrammable Antelope Canyon replica at the Glossier boutique, both in West Hollywood, California; offering a service that is personalised, in-situ, such as the duo of artists who paint shoes live and direct at the Lace It store in Madrid; or a counter where you can put together your own floral displays, like the Rolling Greens plant nursery in Los Angeles.
3. The shops of the future… will blend analogue and digital
Far from simply celebrating their analogue roots, brick-and-mortar spaces have seen the potential of allying themselves with new technologies. Augmented reality, for example, has come to the rescue of beauty stores, where health restrictions have done away with traditional testers. But some have become more creative. At the new Burberry boutique in Shenzhen, you can scan QR codes on the clothes’ labels and receive all sorts of information on your phone: from the composition, to the runway look it draws from. You can also reserve a fitting room via the app. Not to mention the interactive window that greets you at the entrance.
ISA technology devised by Porcelanosa Group goes one step further: using a Datamatrix code, the buyer registers the products they’re interested in on a bracelet, where all the technical data and specifications are displayed. An innovation with added value that will be implemented across the group’s major stores over the course of this year.
4. The shops of the future… will be multifunctional spaces
“If buying online can meet all our needs, what role can a physical store play?”. This is what designer Virgil Abloh and director of AMO, Samir Bantal, asked themselves when they were coming up with a design for the Abloh brand boutique Off-White in Miami’s Design District. Conceived as a multidisciplinary space, it has been designed for use as a point of sale as well as a location for runway shows and talks, an art gallery and bar. “It will be a cafe that opens up to the street; it will be whatever a given moment demands, rather than being limited to dedicating every square metre to 24/7 sales”, Abloh explained at the opening. This is akin to what is offered at the O shop in Chengdu, China – store by day, bar by night; and Darial in Barcelona – a concept store combining fashion, designer furniture, books, temporary exhibitions and a restaurant.
5. The shops of the future… will place value on architecture
When we look at physical spaces, the packaging needs to form part of the experience, and that means that a room with white walls packed full of merchandise won’t pass the cut. Shops in their own right, beyond what they sell, need to be a lure for the buyer. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana understood this concept well when they acquired the space for their shop in Venice, deciding to exploit the city’s cultural pull and keep the charm of the nineteenth-century Palazzo Torres where they were located fully intact: from the stuccoes, restored to their original splendour, to the Murano glass chandeliers. It might be diametrically opposed in terms of its aesthetic, but the Zhongshuge bookstore in Hangzhou – a mirror palace that plays with optical illusions – was built with this same concept in mind: making an impact. And talking of respecting history, Porcelanosa’s flagship in the Big Apple leads by example. Opened in September 2015, the Foster+Partners project sought to conserve the personality and legacy of this 1857 building located right at the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, opposite Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building. And consequently it has become a part of – and witness to – the history of New York.
6. The shops of the future… will be exclusive and ephemeral
The boom in pop-up shops may have a lot to do with the growing availability of premises the health crisis has brought with it, but it’s also related to the idea of exclusivity. Is there anything more limited than an ephemeral boutique? The here and now (or never) is a hook, and a way of creating the sensation of a unique experience.
Chanel has been creating pop-ups for years for its pre-season collections, and it hasn’t ever stopped, recently opening one in Courchevel. And Italian jewellery firm Aligihieri chose the format for its United Kingdom launch, with an ephemeral space that was both restaurant and shop, to enjoy the boot-shaped country’s two wonders: a plate of pasta, and good design. It worked so well that within a few days of opening it was already impossible to find a table, and shopping was by appointment only.
7. The shops of the future will be… places to discover
This is something that’s been happening for some time: pairing the value of seeing and touching in physical stores, and having things arrive at your door via online shopping. The phenomenon has come to be known as showrooming: looking for products in-store, and buying them online. Ceramicist Muriel Grateau’s space in Paris works exactly this way – it is almost a museum, with white walls and shelving displaying her pieces in endless colours; and Casa Perfect in New York – a space halfway between a residence and art gallery, where buyers can stumble across a curated selection of work from artists, metalsmiths, artisans and designers from platform The Future Perfect.
- 1 1. The shops of the future… will be sustainable
- 2 2. The shops of the future… will offer an experience
- 3 3. The shops of the future… will blend analogue and digital
- 4 4. The shops of the future… will be multifunctional spaces
- 5 5. The shops of the future… will place value on architecture
- 6 6. The shops of the future… will be exclusive and ephemeral
- 7 7. The shops of the future will be… places to discover