What is a ‘concept store’ and why is everybody doing it?

Top Man - General Store

When we look at retail today, it’s clear to see that we as consumers, sick of being stuck in the mundane routine of life, are aching to see innovation. We want new ways of shopping and fresh experiences that stand out from the crowd.

Ask yourself this.

Have you ever seen an Apple store empty?

Isn’t it true that whenever you walk past one or stop to go inside, you’re amazed to see what is a remarkably blank space packed to the rafters with millions of humanoids playing with shiny screens, like they have all the time in the world!

And then in contrast, you come across a Curry’s or a T Mobile store, and it’s midway between a ghost town and dawn of the dead.

You wonder why these businesses haven’t noticed the very real impact that locking your goods away behind glass doors or using ‘fake’ phone models in place of real ones, can have on your ability to engage with your audience and get them hooked and reel them in.

Apple store

In sociological terms, Apple has very deliberately changed the “script” on electronics shopping.

These new rules of engagement are creating a total experience that is unique and distinctive. And it’s as remarkable to see those who follow suit as it is those who still don’t get it.

In an age of increasing emphasis on digital media, it was shopping centres that were the first to realise they had to start re-defining themselves as a ‘destination’ that offered an unrivalled customer ‘experience’ and the ensure that experience was a recurring “pleasure’’. In other words, you may have bought the jumper you needed the week before, but it’s not stopping you from revisiting the mall again this week; just for fun.

Shopping centres and super-malls have had to think of new ways to move the consumer away from ‘convenience’ shopping to more spontaneous, impulse shopping.

One immediate way of doing this, was to introduce engaging ‘concept stores’ that increased the reasons for visiting… be it special events, temporary popup shops, cinemas, live entertainment, street food and wine tastings, music festivals etc – you get the picture!

As consumers, it’s something we’re becoming used to, and now the high street is taking note and getting in on the act.

The concept store enters retail

High street stores like Jigsaw, Top Shop, Nudie Jeans, Coca Cola, M & M store London and Adidas are creating ‘new concepts‘ – changing the way they present themselves and looking beyond the shackles of their existing brand.

They appeal to sociology, economics, organisational behaviour, theatre and multimedia, and in doing so have created a retail strategy that’s more about ‘experiential design’ than any ‘hard-sell’.

IMG_1554Boost - Size concept store IMG_1561M & M world London1280px-M&M's_World_London

The ‘genious’ thing about it is, while showing more of their personality, they’re able to connect with a wider audience of customers who they may not have done with previously. It’s helped with their storytelling (an important skill for retailers), and it’s helping them to see where ‘extended‘ opportunities lie.

Here are a few other traditional high street stores who have introduced a concept store element to their roster in a bid to reinvent.

adidas-no42-store-paris-06-630x419 adidas-no42-store-paris-04-630x416 adidas-no42-store-paris-03-630x419 adidas-no42-store-paris-02-630x419 adidas-no42-store-paris-01-630x419

So what does this mean for you and your business?

You may not be a big brand like Apple or Top Shop, but there are always principles you can learn and implement in your own store.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as a retailer. Keep them in mind as you plan your space – whether you’re just starting or been trading for years:

1. What elements could I add to my store that would encourage customers to stay for longer? i.e. a chair or sofa, children’s play area, men’s crèche, free wifi facilities, ipad browsing station etc?

2. If so, how will that impact on the way the space is planned?

3. How are my products presented? Are there any way in which I could encourage more customer interaction?

4. What creative ways can I inspire more impulse purchases? See my blog on “How to put together an effective retail promotion.”

5. Are there any ways in which I could involve my team more and encourage them to be ‘more theatrical’ and entertaining? i.e. introducing a gift wrapping station, product demonstrations or tastings etc.

If you’d like a health check on your business, Eve and her expert team run a series of masterclasses at the #TheRetailSchool, hosted at WBC’s showroom in South East London. 

The next and final class of the year is on 11th November: “Silent Selling: The Art of Visual Merchandising” specifically designed for small businesses. Book here to secure your space.