To store and offer goods is no longer the main task of stores. Innovative retailers need to reinvent themselves – and for some, that’s like curating an art gallery.
While online shopping is growing and retailers mutate into logistics experts, the question of sense or nonsense of brick and mortar stores remains pending. Some innovative retailers respond by regularly questioning their own perceptions. They have realized that, to many people, high streets have become sources of inspiration rather than just stockrooms to satisfy their needs.
On the one hand, mass consumers do their own online research for the widest assortment, quickest availability and best offers. On the other, valuable customers become fans of brands by exploring unique, offline shopping experiences. Here are some examples of artistic multi-brand store concepts that feel more like curated temporary exhibition spaces – may boring vertical brands find some inspiration!
10 Corso Como
When Carla Sozzani opened her store vision in Milan’s Corso Como no. 10 back in 1991, she probably didn’t expect the hidden garage to turn into one of the world’s most important cult multibrand stores. Today, there are subsidiaries in China and South Korea, and another one is to come to New York soon. What they all do is to change face constantly, curating new brands and product worlds, but combine them into a strong and unique brand story. Here, the customer shops the local brand 10 Corso Como, no matter how the single product is labeled.
Dover Street Market
Driven by the fashion label Comme des Garcons and its entourage, Dover Street Market has also expanded abroad to Asia and the US. For design lovers, DSM is a must-visit-stop at least twice a year when the spaces are rebuilt entirely.
Located in a backyard of Duesseldorf’s old centre, StyleAlbum cannot compete with the hotspots in Milan or London. They run the showroom in addition to their busy online shop. StyleAlbum is featured here to show how easy it can be to inspire differently on a daily basis: The outfit presented on a simple wooden floor panel can be changed within minutes (and shared to social networks), like the look of the day.
The location of the store for traditionally manufactured products is a surprise in itself: The Fourth District in Zurich is better known for its urban red light aura and its multicultural inhabitants than for upscale shopping. But here, the story of carefully produced items is staged like in a gallery with a store design that could have been developed by Jules Verne.
It’s Not A Store, but It Should Be
The scene above is not retail, it is an art exhibition at this year’s Documenta in Athens (Daniel García Andújar, Installation: The Disasters of War, Metics Akademia, 2017, EMST Athens). But I can well imagine the exhibits to be presented like this in a store, made buyable. And I think I’m not the only one who longs for a little more creativity from innovative retailers. Particularly considering that our day-to-day needs are entirely covered online already – or tomorrow at the latest.
Top picture: The Paul Smith Store in Los Angeles, which is regularly posted on Instagram by international visitors. Here it changed its facade from pink to rainbow colored for a few days to support the local gay pride in May 2017 (photo: courtesy Paul Smith).
About the author: Alexander von Keyserlingk is a retail trend scout, both professionally and by passion. He is regularly booked as a key note speaker and consults retail brands in innovation projects. Alexander is also the founder of the Slowretail Blog about Stores with Soul. You can best reach him via LinkedIn or personal mail.