The pandemic has changed and disrupted many sectors, it’s making us think about new business models, and most importantly it’s accelerated the use of technology. In this post we’d like to explore physical retail as a destination that’s much more than a place to simply transact for goods or services.
Walking through London’s Soho neighbourhood feel more like Italy than the UK with al-fresco dining being offered by every vendor. The buzz on the streets is electric and resembles a street party or even a carnival in parts. Yet turn onto Oxford Street and we see shuttered stores and dozens of new tacky confectionary and gift stores. This illustrates how slow most retailers are in adopting new formats and transforming their businesses, however for the few that have adopted change, it’s fresh take on physical retail, its exciting and new! We’re seeing the introduction of new open or garden spaces which encourages increased dwell time and there’s a new sense of shopping tranquility. In a recent survey, 49% of adults reported feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends according to the American Psychological Association, so using space a new way is becoming an important factor in retail design.
One of our favourites is fashion retailer Browns who has created a secret garden created by Rosebank Landscaping where visitors can rest and enjoy an al fresco bite to eat as part of the overall shopping experience. The Dior at Alto restaurant at Selfridges is a massive hit amongst fashionistas too, good luck if you’d like to book a table this summer! The stunning rooftop space envelops diners into a sensory world of Christian Dior where homewares, fashion and perfumes collide to create a rich immersive brand experience. We also love the slow, lo-fi pop-up store by Norwegian tablet brand reMarkable in Oslo designed by Snøhetta, it takes design cues from traditional library design by using a material pallet made of divided timber desks, leather banquettes and small domed reading lamps. The objective of the store was to create “a better place to think” and encourages visitors to take a break, sit and enjoy the art of handwriting on the companies digital paper tablets.
We think we’re living through a golden age of physical retail, there has never been as much experimentation as we’re seeing right now. Stores are no longer analogue spaces where we simply go to buy goods. When retail is done well, stores are multi-sensory environments that engage all of our senses.