The Retail Comeback: socialization, product education and entertainment are generating the new wave

September 25, 2017

It’s an exciting time for retail. This may not be the obvious conclusion after looking at headlines like “Retail Apocalypse” or reading figures saying 8,600 stores will have closed by the end of 2017. It’s important to distinguish that it’s not a great time for retail, in fact it may be at its lowest point ever. However, while physical retail stores haven’t been doing their best, they are at a revolutionary juncture where they get to redefine what they can be and the sky is the limit.

After the rapid growth of the e-commerce where customers can buy exactly what they want without leaving the comfort of their bed, there needs to be something greater pulling people to retail spaces. Designing this attraction is an opportunity to create new platforms for socializing, learning, and leisure activities.

From the challenges many of the companies posed to students during the 2017 Italia Innovation Program, it is obvious cracking the code to develop that perfect brand experience is at the forefront of their strategies. This trend comes from the growing market of consumers who are spending their money on experiences rather than things. Now, a brick-and-mortar store’s success no longer depends on just superior merchandising or customer service, but also the entertainment value it offers to those walking through the doors.

The store of the future is not just a market-place, but a recreational outlet, whether that is Sephora offering free makeup tutorials or Nike building a basketball court for customers. Facilitating activities is not only a way to get people into the shops, but also creates a loyal community around the brand.

Retailer now not only have to define who their customer is, but also what they want to do. Are they the type of people who want to spend $6 on a latte, take advantage of free classes, or network with power players? Retailers who have started answering these questions have created amazing places for people to come into contact with the brand. Vans, the skater shoe and apparel company, for example opened up House of Vans in London, New York and Chicago where it offers skatebowls, concerts, art exhibits, and movie screenings for people who follow the “off the wall” personality. Sweetgreen, a U.S. fast-casual salad bar has started hosting an annual block party in Washington D.C. featuring local food vendors and indie musicians to embody its passion x purpose mentality.

Retail is not totally doomed as all the headlines are telling us, however retail as we know it today is. As more and more brands come up with new conceptions of retail space, stores can be given new life. Those who look at the retail world shouldn’t be pessimistic, but instead feel excited by the prospect of creating new platforms for interaction. Those involved in the retail world get to have the chance to imagine and create these sensational experiences, and customers we get to look forward to more fun and spectacular shopping experiences.