Wake Up Mono Brand Stores – Customers Love it Bright and in Stereo!

Is the era of mono brand stores over? Why an increasing number of brands cooperate to create mixed concepts and overcome self-conquering vanity. Finally.

In the early years of television, the screen was black and white and there were just a few channels to choose. Listening to music was a monophonic experience.

Black and white brand experience in 1932 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Black and white brand experience in 1932 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Let me adapt the mono metaphor and translate it into the current retail world of mono brand stores, that the industry has created over the last few decades. What we experience is similar around the world: the same brands open stores in the same streets and districts. They roll out the same, predictable shop concepts, mostly offering the same products globally.

Brand Stores Are Like Mono Music

It’s a one dimensional customer experience – it’s like listening to music in mono. When the mono brand players were trying to optimise their brand store experiences over the years, they did nothing more than to add some kind of Dolby. Their goal was to create the perfect brand world without subsurface noises. Totally free of jazzy edges and without any improvised solos.

ZARA UK / India (Photos: © WGSN/© Puja Kedia)

Zara in the UK and India (Photos: © WGSN/© Puja Kedia)

Create Compilations, Not Just Albums!

But there is hope in this mono tristesse – more and more labels create diverse store concepts. Here they still are the music producer but the album gets different local releases, sometimes even with the addition of diverse tracks from other artists. The customer’s brand world goes stereo and becomes a compilation.

Significant for the new genre is once again H&M. While creating their own major label, besides the traditional band brand they have also produced ‘artists’ such as Monki, Cheap Monday, Weekday and ‘& Other Stories’ for example. Another H&M brand, COS has just celebrated it’s tenth anniversary and has done quite a good job as the label group’s laboratorium for new ‘sound’ styles. Today, customers decide between the $2,000 Jil Sander coat or the similar COS branded one for $200.

Jil Sander vs. COS (Photos: ©©

Jil Sander vs. COS (Photos: ©©

Speaking of Jil Sander – they are another brand that adds creativity and colour to Uniqlo – an otherwise industrialised standard retail format. Comme des Garcons, Karl Lagerfeld, Kenzo, Viktor & Rolf and others: H&M has won 2 design stars each year for cooperation, leveraging their marketing upon those successes to attract new customers and win media attention.

The examples show however, that customers are not easy to catch with just some standard single brand store universe. They like to mix it up, to think and react in diverse ways, to be edgy and deliver the unexpected. This is what customers also want to experience when they explore new albums. Artists and labels in the music business must open themselves to streaming providers, which music fans use for consumption of their daily playlists. Product brands have to do the same to stay relevant. Especially while more and more classic multi brand stores are leaving the market.

Food and Fashion – Venues are Important

And the cooperation extends beyond fashion merchandise. COS has launched a collaboration with the Danish interior design brand HAY, as they are both focusing on the same target group of design purists. Then in the summer of 2017, H&M will release their new ‘album’ called ARKET. The stores are supposed to be a sampled mix of own compositions with corresponding ‘featured’ artists and a café/food bonus track. Also important to watch is their latest flagship in Barcelona, where an integrated local café invites store customers to relax with a breathtaking view of Passeig de Gràcia.

H&M Food&Fashion Barcelona (Photo: J. Nowicki/TW)

H&M Food and Fashion Barcelona (Photo: © J. Nowicki/TextilWirtschaft)

Another example for brand compilations beyond the traditional assortment is Urban Outfitters. It combines private label products with well known brands and even offers selected second hand clothing, media and toys.

The Rise of Brand Concept Stores, Created by Mono Brands

As a fan and promoter of unique retail, I appreciate this changing development in brand retail. Retail growth doesn’t work without creativity and unique offers. The kings of poor assortment in monobrand and multibrand are closing down their boring stores. It is the decade of innovative store models and my global concept store list of great stores is growing every month. For now the list is dominated by born multibrand retailers, but it doesn’t take much to forecast that one day mono brand stores will make it to the list.

I’m optimistic that we will see a store revolution, experiencing surround sound instead of just mono. It would be multi brand stores created by mono brands. They would add corresponding accessory labels plus matching food concepts under one roof. The target customer will experience diversity and enjoy it. So, if you like the idea, brainstorm some great brands that would enlighten your assortment. Call their CEO’s and arrange a business lunch together, with the goal of cooperation. To inspire yourself, your customers and your teams with new millenium creativity.

About the author: Alexander von Keyserlingk is bored by the mono brand store culture and watches out for new concept ideas globally. His professional background is of more than 25 years experience in lifestyle retail management and consulting. You can follow Alexander on his Slowretail Blog or get in touch personally via LinkedIn.

(Top photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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