Physical retail, via hyperphysical stores, is having a renaissance moment in Asia. With the retail landscape changing significantly since the pandemic and the explosive growth of online shopping, post-pandemic consumer footfall has taken a massive hit in recent years, and the relevance of traditional shopping setups and stores are increasingly being re-evaluated.
There is a new expectation in 2022 from shoppers that brands will adjust to their new lifestyles – in both the digital and physical world – in delivering products across all channels, and even a blending of the two.
The space in which these two worlds meet is hyperphysical retail.
“Hyperphysical stores are all about creating impressive and extraordinary multi-sensory experiences in a short time. It is about creating a memory to drive top-of-mind recall by taking consumers to different and unexpected brand experiences,” explains Mohammed Sirajuddeen, growth and digital commerce lead at Accenture Song.
“These settings are also usually created to drive social engagement and often involve a visual element to encourage consumers to post their experiences on social media platforms such as Instagram or TikTok, which can go viral and generate hype over time. While this trend is currently adopted predominantly by luxury fashion and beauty brands, there is significant potential for brands across other categories to create their hyperphysical stores.”
As brands look to lure consumers back to their stores post-Covid, here are the ten best hyperphysical retail stores to pop-up in Asia in 2022 so far.
In honour of Chinese New Year, Bottega Veneta landed on the Great Wall of China, staging an experimental takeover on one of the seven wonders of the world. Running from 6th January to 12th January, the week-long display showcased both Bottega Veneta’s name and logo, as well as the characters “新春快乐” (Happy New Year). The installation was decorated in the Italian luxury brand’s signature green as well as a tangerine shade of orange, which Bottega Veneta chose for it being a symbol of luck in China.
Coinciding the takeover, the Kering-owned brand also pledged a donation to the Shanhai Pass, one of the major passes on the Great Wall of China and its easternmost stronghold. It also paired the hyperphysical event with a digital Chinese New Year campaign, which showcased the same shade of tangerine featured on the Great Wall installation.
In March, French maison Hermès brought its HermèsFit pop-up gym to Bangkok, inviting visitors to browse the Paris house’s high-end accessories via light workout activities and sensory experiences.
Centered around Hermès fashion accessories on the theme of sport, the hyperphysical retail location was decorated in the house’s signature orange with graphic motifs, and featured a wide range of sports activities. These included a rock-climbing wall, a boxing ring with carré-printed punching bags, a ping pong table with a silk carré motif on rackets and a chess-press station, complete with custom Hermès barbells and horse-shaped kettlebells.
In the carré-inspired yoga class, visitors could slowly unfurl a Hermès silk scarf and strike a series of elegant poses, or shadowbox with the Parisian house’s enamel bangles that added light weight to the arms.
After a workout, visitors could sit back and relax with live music performances at the central boxing ring, which transformed into a dance floor for the evening. There was also a juice bar offering three healthy juice options to quench thirst, boost the immune system and detox the body.
In April, luxury fashion brand Balenciaga, helmed by creative director Demna, opened its La Cagole pop-up in Bangkok. The store’s name pays homage to its legendary handbag with the same name, which translates roughly to “out-there girl” in French. The design of the hyperphysical store, opened at Central Embassy, Bangkok, was equally ‘out-there’.
Featuring a K-pop-style pink furry interior, the colourful faux fur madness covered floors, walls, displays, seating, tables, shelves, and even pink-lined racks in the open-plan kiosks. Tapping this enthusiasm, Balenciaga introduced ‘Le Cagole’ in a range of formats, colours and leather types. In addition to the bag, the brand created a line featuring a variety of products like wallets, clutches, sandals, boots and more, all of which were showcased in the ‘Cagole’ pop-up store.
At the store, customers also had the opportunity to personalise their ‘Cagole’ products, priced between EUR 950 (USD 963.37) and EUR 1,950 (USD 1977.45).
Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster teamed up with BlackPink’s Jennie for a hyperphysical retail event inspired by a blooming garden. Dubbed ‘Jentle Garden’, the experiential fantasy realm was imagined through cotton candy-coloured houses and beds of blossoming flowers created as a miniature landscape. The display was available for shoppers to view in a select store in the Gentle Monster outlet. Celebrating the eyewear brand’s new collection of the same name, the pop-up toured multiple cities, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul and showcased eyewear models including three optical frames and three sunglasses in an assortment of cat-eye and oversize rectangular silhouettes clad in marbleized acetate.
In May, Moncler Genius and Gentle Monster launched a pop-up space within Gentle Monster’s Seoul Hause concept store. The store brought to life the launch of ‘Swipe’, the new collaboration between the brands where four pairs of the Korean brand’s eyewear pieces were reimagined. The hyperphysical retail pop-up blurred the lines between reality and the digital world.
Inside, items were displayed in extraordinary installations that had a physical and digital presence, and a conceptual presentation of the Moncler Genius X Gentle Monster collection, which also included clothing and accessories. The all-black and concrete pop-up reimagined a minimalist and modern world for visitors to step into.
Bringing a slice of the Big Apple to Singapore, New York luxury brand Coach opened its food-inspired hyperphysical store in partnership with Two Men Bagel House in early April.
Located in Duxton Hill, the pop-up featured decor inspired by a traditional bagel shop, showcasing the quintessential flavours of New York City.
Shoppers could browse the latest Coach ready-to-wear collection by creative director Stuart Vevers, as well as its best-selling handbags, including the Cashin Carry Tote and the Soft Tabby.
After shopping, customers could have their bags customised for free with bespoke Coach graffiti motifs by local artist Tiffany Lovage, offering customised spray painting. The Two Men Bagel House team also designed five bespoke personas dressed in Coach’s key pieces from the Spring 2022 collection. The “bagelsonas” were featured in co-branded merchandise such as water tumblers, enamel pins and stickers and will be available as gift options with in-store purchases.
Van Cleef & Arpels
French jewellery house Van Cleef & Arpels recreated the streets of Paris in Singapore with an immersive watchmaking exhibition, opened to the public in February. The immersive exhibition, dubbed ‘A Journey Through the Poetry of Time’ was made up of four galleries based on the following themes – love stories; ballerinas and fairies; poetic astronomy; and enchanting nature, capturing what it feels like to be in the French capital.
At the “cafe”, customers could enjoy a cup of coffee and some pastries by the “River Seine”. To further enhance the faux-French experience, shoppers were also invited to take photos with iconic Parisian landmarks. Other unique photo-ops included a flower stall, a Parisian garden setting, as well as a French opera house. While parents took in the sights, workshops were held, catering to children aged four to 10.
As for retail, a total of 198 Van Cleef & Arpels watches and jewellery were on show at the exhibition, with most available for purchase.
French luxury brand Louis Vuitton opened a pop-up restaurant at its flagship boutique in Cheongdam-dong in Seoul in May.
Pierre Sang at Louis Vuitton opened on the fourth floor of Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul from May 4 to June 10, serving French cuisine inspired by seasonal ingredients. The pop up is located inside a café draped marble-top tables, bronze walls and the Parisian house’s signature monogram flowers on its ceiling.
Headed by Korean-born French chef Pierre Sang Boyer, who was a finalist on the French version of TV competition “Top Chef” in 2011, patrons were offered a daily multicourse lunch and dinner service from noon to 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., respectively. Coffee and tea was also available from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
It was the third Louis Vuitton café to open after its debut in Louis Vuitton Osaka in 2020.
Marking the reopening of its renovated store at the Emporium Bangkok in May, Gucci hosted a special installation, featuring an exclusive collection of pieces especially sourced from the Italian house’s archive.
The space was laid out to resemble an immersive runway, with striking floral motifs and lit-up arches highlighting a catwalk-worthy road within the installation space for guests to walk along and view each item.
Vintage styles of the timeless Jackie and Bamboo bags, now reimagined by Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele under a contemporary lens, were featured alongside several more recent items from the latest Michele collections.
Precious silk scarfs adorned with the Giucci’s iconic prints were displayed together with travel items from the 50s, the 60s and the 70s including suitcases, beauty cases and duffle bags.
British heritage brand Burberry unveiled an immersive takeover of Ananti Cove in Busan, South Korea in early July, decorating the resort in its TB summer monogram.
A bespoke iteration of the TB summer monogram covered everything from the pool and outdoor terrace areas, to dining spaces and lounge areas within the resort, including the Ananti Penthouse and Ananti Hilton Busan hotel. The design holds a particular importance within the brand as it was introduced by Burberry’s chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci and combines the iconic pattern classic Burberry Check with the TB Monogram.
Burberry also launched a dedicated lounge called Thomas’s offering drinks, desserts and savoury snacks created by chef Laubenuit, and opened a pop-up poolside store featuring a selection of men’s, women’s and childrenswear from the TB Summer Monogram collection.