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Destination retail redux

New opportunities are emerging to transform retail hubs into community-first assembly points that offer more diverse activities for wider audiences.
5 July, 2022
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Department and flagship stores are being reworked as community-focused assets that benefit visitors beyond simply enabling them to buy goods.

From offering the functions and services of the high street to becoming hangouts for like-minded groups or rentable spaces for external events, these reformatted shops are helping to revive bricks-and-mortar retail in the inter-Covid landscape, while better meeting the needs of experience-hungry customers and local residents.

'Careful thought is necessary about how to adapt and re-use these spaces in a way [that] will ensure that the buildings thrive for decades to come, continuing to play an important social and economic role in their areas and to make positive contributions to the urban fabric,' says Daniel Morgans, associate director at global architects Chapman Taylor.

Market Snapshot

  • A survey by Gekko focused on British consumer shopping intentions when lockdown ends found that 70% of people plan to visit stores as much, or more than they did, pre-pandemic
  • A recent IBM report found that 98% of global Generation Z respondents typically make purchases in a store some or most of the time, with 56% shopping in-store for a fun experience
  • In a study of 1,000 US consumers, 61.4% of respondents said that they’d spend more in a store that provides a positive experience than in one that does not (source: Raydiant)

Community commerce

Department stores have borne the brunt of retail’s downturn over the past decade, with Covid spelling the death knell for many stores of famous names such as JC Penney, Macy’s and Nordstrom in the US, the collapse of Debenhams and widespread closures of John Lewis stores in the UK.

Some store owners have been quick to repurpose their retail space both pre- and inter-Covid. But with two thirds (65%) of shoppers in the UK saying they have a new-found appreciation of their communities and local shops since the onset of Covid-19, fresh opportunities are emerging to create retail destinations that provide products, services and experiences better tailored to the local community (source: Mastercard).

On the south coast of England is Bobby’s of Bournemouth, a former Debenhams department store that’s going back to its roots as an independent retailer. Led by Verve Properties, its regeneration will ensure Bobby’s meets the accelerated changes in social and community shopping amid Covid. The store will re-open its beauty hall in summer 2021, offering local, sustainable brands alongside major labels, followed by a traditional ice cream and coffee parlour, an art gallery and a dog café. Outside, the Bobby's garden will feature a micro-brewery, smokery and bar.

Famed London department store Selfridges, meanwhile, has become a wedding venue, representing a new civic use-case for the retailer. After some 220,000 weddings were cancelled or postponed in the UK in 2020 due to the pandemic, the retailer has launched the service to ease pent-up demand (source: UK Wedding Taskforce). Its fourth-floor wedding suite will now host up to 30 people for each ceremony, with Selfridges able to create a full, personal wedding package for couples wishing to use the space.

'Department store retail is evolving and a lot of these stores are becoming high-rise high streets – a destination in their own right offering an extended service beyond just retail moments.'

George Gottl, chief creative officer, UXUS.


Hangout hubs

While some retail destinations are designed to improve local civic life, others are using store design to create destinations that are focused on socialising as a form of brand engagement. One example is adidas. Its recently revamped flagship Originals store in London has been expanded to allow visitors to linger and socialise. The store houses a set of Pioneer decks that are available to be used by customers who want to show off their DJ prowess, as well as a public pool table.

'Generation Z prioritise experience and the moments leading up to, and intertwined with, acquiring the goods themselves'

Simon Mitchell, co-founder, Sybarite architects.

Elsewhere in London, luxury accessories brand Anya Hindmarch has opened a multi-unit retail destination that takes inspiration from village life. Visitors can sip a coffee at its cafe or pop in to its hair salon for a blow-dry. A series of stores, meanwhile, offer Anya Hindmarch bags, from entry level to bespoke. Central to the concept is evoking a destination that is welcoming and familiar – as opposed to a cold, cookie-cutter retail format.

In Los Angeles, Pudu Pudu is a dessert bar format from Dr Oetker in collaboration with retail design agency Uxus. The store is designed to bring young people together in the inter-pandemic period, becoming a social space where connections are made over pudding. 'The seating encourages people to come together and flows organically, linking and combining communities and friends,' explains George Gottl, chief creative officer at Uxus. 'The space was designed to be shared digitally as a backdrop for Gen Z.' With outdoor space and immersive dessert-making sessions, Pudu Pudu rethinks the role of the dessert parlour as a culturally significant meeting place for young people. '


Living venues

Other destination retailers are realising their role to provide services for the public to use and enjoy, thoughtfully integrating distancing and wellbeing into retail design.

In Tokyo, Pan-Projects has created The Playhouse, a multi-storey adaptable retail space that doubles as both a retail destination and a rentable space for talks, theatre and meetings. Created with the impact of Covid-19 on shopping habits in mind, it uses retractable wooden doors and draped textiles to challenge the conventions of destination retail, allowing culture and activities to co-exist with the retail space.

Similarly uniting retail and activities is The Commons. Its plant-filled, wellbeing-led mall in Saladaeng, Bangkok, encourages city dwellers to decelerate. More than 30% of the space is open-air and public, with upper floors that can be booked for locals to practise yoga, perform music or participate in art and dance workshops. 'The Platform is a new concept space adopting the sharing economy approach as a driving force for the space,’ says the Department of Architecture, creators of The Commons.

Also embracing biophilia is Brisbane mall the Hyperdome, which was revamped in 2020 by owner QIC Global Real Estate to meet the evolving needs of the local community and the region. The renovation uses natural light and plants to ease shoppers back into bricks-and-mortar shopping; its atrium resembles a pergola with overhead greenery, while sensory play spaces bring the outdoors in.

'The objective was to deliver a welcoming environment in response to the local community’s desire for family and togetherness'

Quatro Design, creator of Hyperdome's plantscapes.

Lab Notes

1. New consumer mindsets are prompting flagship and destination retail spaces to use interior design and facilities to better foster a sense of community and familiarity.

2. Take cues from the way adidas and The Commons are bringing socialising to their retail spaces, from offering DJ decks for customers to entertain friends and fellow shoppers to bookable spaces for exercise or relaxation.

3. Looking to the future, destination retail can tune into the tenets of Eco-venience Retail by offering community-led, convenient services, such as Selfridges hosting weddings to ease pandemic pressures.

This article was written by Kathryn Bishop and Savannah Scott, and first appeared on LSN: https://www.lsnglobal.com/mark...

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