Future Retail: 5 hot trends shaking up the shop

By Katie Baron 4 December 2017
The experimental NikeLab London. Image: Nike.

You need to see these vampire vendors, sensory playgrounds and super salons.

For future shops forget the old, quietly unassuming world of ‘best practice’.

With all-out innovation fast becoming the holy grail of retail – spurred by a frenzied fascination with start-up culture, relentless technological revolutions, the creep of 24-hr living, and a burgeoning hunger for experiences over things – the classic ‘rules’ no longer apply.

Disciples of disruption, we’ve hit retail’s Wild West phase and it’s promising plenty of excitement.

Here’s five trends transforming the future of shop design, and dispelling the myth that e-commerce will kill off the superstar store…

Image: B8ta.

Expo Stores

The voracious appetite for newness that’s powering the popularity of BuzzFeed style top 10’s and ever-greater demands for insider info will also fuel ‘incubator spaces’ that promise shoppers a leg up on the mainstream curve.

Playing on FOMO and one-upmanship, consider the b8ta store in California – a sleek but inviting touch-and-play showcase for trending tech goods that adds products weekly without guaranteeing how long they’ll stick around.

Or the lavish-looking Moscow store Trend Island, which homes new international fashion talent (for a commission) but ditches those that don’t resonate ultra-fast.

There’s also Clydesdale Bank’s Studio B – a glossily enticing London store that’s playing the disruptors at their own game by operating as both a digital finance expo and fully functioning bank.

As Jon Tollit, principal at global architects Gensler says:

“Speed of change and demands of customers requires an ‘editorial’ approach to engagement where pages of your favourite magazine are made physical”.

Image: Moby Mart.

Vampire Vending

Nurturing increasingly nocturnal shopping habits, something inherently wedded to the nose-dive of the traditional 9-to-5, will also be key.

Consider China’s staffless grocery store Bingobox, or Wheely’s Moby Mart – a Swedish-Chinese micro mobile supermarket that travels on-demand, via the call of an Uber-style app.

Apparently, future versions will sync to your music or order you a cab somewhere else, should your evening require it.

There’s also the dawn of shoppable windows via tech such as Samsung’s Air X Touch that transforms glass into interactive screens that can be swiped, pinched and even ‘tapped-to-buy’, just like a mobile phone interface.

Shiseido’s Global Innovation Centre. Image: Shisheido.

Gateway Hubs

With soaring fees and debatable vocational success causing some higher education establishments to lose their shine, canny brands will deliver shops promising aspirational enthusiasts a path to professional success.

US beauty label Smashbox’s London flagship, aka the world’s first ‘Studio Store‘, is one of the best. Resembling its LA studio, it supports fans via a free, bookable photo studio and video booth.

Japanese beauty giant Shiseido’s Global Innovation Centre in Tokyo (opening 2018) will also let visitors try cosmetics, co-create products and trade opinions while picking the brains of top product scientists.

Sensory Playscapes

Satisfying the spots that online can’t yet hit will be shops with a sensorial and responsive edge, blurring the lines between store and event.

Boozy confectionery brand’s Smith & Sinclair’s ‘experiential retail concession’ in UK department store John Lewis’s London flagship comes complete with thermal reactive surfaces and scent-diffusing walls.

Co-founder Melanie Goldsmith likens this tactic to shedding inhibitions giving people “permission to play”.

It follows the thrills of Nike’s experimental NikeLab London and NY stores last year that used gestural tech, proximity sensors and advanced projection kit to make the space responsive to individual visitor’s movements, and wildly performative.

Finishing Salons

Last up are the shops born to evolve fast-fire customisation via an imaginative lens, ensuring the modern need for speed doesn’t make retail err on the side of plain tedious.

Adidas set the pace with its Knit-For-You Berlin store that let guests co-design a sweater in under 4 hours using rapid manufacturing, body scanning and advanced personalisation tech, while British jewellery brand Vashi’s London flagship is overhauling the formality of diamond buying by letting shoppers finalise pieces in a subterranean workshop-lab, guided by guru gem specialists.

Future shops are shaking up – do you want what they’re selling?

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