This past December, a group of our designers attended the 2015 Retail Design Collective to check out the new “must-see” retail shops and design trends. From impressive new flagships, to intimately hip boutiques, we spent the day exploring a breadth of new retail environments around NYC. Along the way, we noticed many retailers competing with the rise of online shopping by transforming their typical brick-and-mortar into experiences intangible on an e-commerce site. We visited stores that are evolving the typical shopping experience by integrating trends we refer to as concept-to-consumer transparency, multi-functional spaces, and curated consumption. These new strategies are successfully generating brand awareness and in-store excitement by creating unique lifestyle experiences within retail environments.
Trend #1: Concept-to-Consumer Transparency
The most impressive trend we noted is the integration of concept-to-consumer transparency. Retailers are displaying the fabrication of their products by providing literal transparency to the manufacturing process. This trend can be seen at Normal, a customizable earphone company, located on W.22nd Street. By displaying 3D printers on the sales floor and providing glass walls to the workroom, consumers can get sized for ear buds, and witness their product come to life. Ray-Ban’s newest flagship on Wooster Street also integrates a visible, in-house factory for custom sunglasses to engage the customer in the design process. Knowledge and awareness of how a product is made celebrates the brand, engages the buyer, and contributes to a memorable in-store shopping experience.
Trend #2: Multi-Functional Space
Another emerging design trend is the integration of a multi-functional space within the retail environment. Spaces with secondary functions are becoming essential to retail environments not only because they engage the customers, but also recurrently bring them back to the store. Repeated exposure benefits brand awareness, recognition, and influences potential sales. Some successful functions include hosting community or private events, offering café and beverages, and manufacturing on-site. Saturdays Surf NYC and Miansai SoHo, neighbors on Crosby Street, have both integrated café bars into their narrow retail spaces, where consumers can either relax on cozy benches or browse the store. A stadium-like staircase at the Ray-Ban flagship store, dueling as a seating area, leads to an open space on the lower level, intended for community events and viewings. Material Good’s second floor suite on Wooster Street, is not only home to a luxurious jewelry shop, but is styled like a chic loft. A destined hang out spot for SoHo’s elite shoppers, the store hosts champagne and contemporary art that creates a relaxing and exclusive shopping experience.
Trend #3: Curated Consumption
The most memorable design trend we noticed was curated consumption. Whether in a permanent or pop-up space, this innovative approach tailors retails environments, staff, and product to a specific consumer. This trend demonstrates how retailers are building a thoughtful understanding of the clientele, as well as striving for definition and exclusion from other brands. These stores are not only selling product, but selling the entire lifestyle brand. This trend was best demonstrated in STORY, a permanent retail space which reinvents its product and design on a rotating basis similar to a pop-up. In their own words, “STORY is a retail concept that takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store.” Whether a home store in December catered for holiday shoppers or a chic boutique for Chelsea locals, Story continuously displays new product, new atmosphere, and new stories to tell. In a more permanent environment, Material Good also curates their experience to specific product and people. Material Good not only showcases their store as an inviting home, but curates jewelry pieces based on their clientele, sometimes with a specific customer in mind. In multiple rooms, designed like stylish living rooms, carefully chosen pieces can be showcased based on the visiting customer, providing the highest, most lavish, level of customer service imaginable.