These are dark times for brick and mortar fashion retailers. As e-commerce grows and consumer behavior changes, the US has seen over 7,000 store closings in 2017.
Investment bank Credit Suisse even predicts 25% of American shopping malls to close by 2022. The UK is no different, with an average of 16 high street stores closing every day last year. In this scenario, many brick and mortar retailers are finding that a couple mannequins, clothing racks and nice lighting no longer suffice to lure shoppers into coming inside, let alone to turn them into loyal customers.
In a quest to look more attractive, a growing number of fashion retailers are drawing inspiration from art galleries, museums and magazines to plan their stores’ architecture, décor and product display.
“By presenting goods for sale in a ‘highbrow’ setting, they increase the perceived value of products, which also creates more of an experience for the consumer”, said Petah Marian, Senior Editor of Insight at the trend forecasting company WGSN.
However, in the fast-paced times we live in, even the most eye-popping of shops still needs to revamp itself from time to time to keep consumers interested. While museums and art galleries may be a source of inspiration, the pace in which pieces are replaced shouldn’t resemble a museum at all. A recent study revealed that online stores which constantly launch new products tend to sell more than those which are perceived by consumers as stylish. However, the latter takes longer to change their collections.
If even e-commerce companies must speed up to not be swept away by competition, what can be said of brick and mortar retailers?
Another report by The Future Laboratory advised stores to become “hubs of activity, with ‘rewards’ such as exclusive products, immersive experiences or lifestyle services”. Indeed, no less than 75% of Generation Z consumers prefer stores that provide a “memorable and encouraging offer”.
This dynamism imperative might explain why the biggest cities of the world are seeing a growing number of so-called “concept stores”. Although the term is sometimes used loosely to describe retail spaces that look different than usual, it usually refers to shops which, in addition to looking “artsy”, also offer an ever-changing curated selection of products from several categories.
It’s a smart move: ever-changing, so that consumers always feel there’s something new to discover in store. Curated, because they often find it difficult to filter all the options they come across in a world saturated by information and products. Shoppers who are overwhelmed by choice tend to look for trustworthy sources to inspire their purchases, according to trend forecaster Pernille Kok-Jensen, director at Dutch research agency Mare.
Think of the concept store as the retail equivalent of the social media influencer. Speaking of social media, that explains why so much attention is given to product display and décor: retailers aim to look “instagrammable”. After all, today’s consumers are avid social media users and Instagram is on a quest to become an e-commerce platform.
But perhaps the most interesting thing to be noted about this type of shop is that fashion is placed alongside other product categories which used to be sold separately, such as books, homeware and food. Some even go as far as offering workshops, concerts and other cultural activities — just like a real museum or art gallery would. “Spending on clothing in developed markets is not growing at the same rate of other categories. In some markets, it is even in decline. That means retailers need to branch out in order to maintain profitable growth”, explained Marian. Fashion is now part of a more holistic view of style.
Concept stores’ rise in popularity can, therefore, be related to the rise of “lifestyle”. As fashion brands expand into new product categories to have customers “fully immersed into their world”, as Gucci put it when releasing its homeware line, so do stores. After all, why restrict oneself to just one product category, when one can cater to more needs and be present at all moments of customers’ lives?
“The books we read, the clothes we wear to the skincare we use are all indicative of the lifestyle we are aspiring to create”, explains Marian.
No wonder established apparel giants, such as the H&M Group, are jumping in the concept store bandwagon as well. In addition to expanding H&M’s product offering to include homeware, the fast fashion giant has recently launched a new brand, Arket.
Defined by H&M itself as a “modern day market”, the store features menswear, womenswear, childrenswear, homeware, beauty products and a café. Its website even includes a recipe section. At Arket, products are displayed in a minimalistic style reminiscent of Scandinavian museums — remember H&M’s motherland is Sweden.
(Source: Fashion United)