Prior to the pandemic, Aptos regularly blogged about the latest and greatest new store formats that were opening around the world. And then the world shut down. Even as it reopened, a reopening that varied greatly based on where you call home, much of that next year for retailers was focused on getting back into the swing of things — and getting back to black. While innovations and new store formats certainly still popped up (as we chronicled in Store Innovation Watch: March 2021), at that time there was still lingering uncertainty as it related to store traffic rebounds.
Much of that uncertainty, of course, stemmed from retailers wondering: Would digital-first consumer behaviors stick around? And would that render the physical store obsolete? The answers to those questions are an emphatic yes and no, respectively.
That is, consumers have irrevocably become more digital-first in their purchase journeys, but on the flip side, they’ve also shown an unwavering reliance on – if not full-blown infatuation with — brick and mortar. The result is a consumer who prefers a blended physical and digital shopping experience, one that offers ultimate convenience.
This ‘phygital’ journey includes ordering items online and picking them up in-store. In-store, they are ordering items that may not be on the shelves and having those items shipped to their home. At home, they are ordering online and returning to the store. And the list goes on.
Above and beyond the criticality of leveraging stores for fulfillment, endless aisle and returns operations, let’s also keep in mind — the vast majority of sales still take place in a physical setting. The 2022 Online Retail Forecast, US report by Forrester went on record as saying that stores are still expected to drive 70% of U.S. retail sales in 2027.
For commerce, for fulfillment, for community, for the experiential, stores are as ever woven tightly into the fabric of our society. Because of this, we’re starting to see (once again) retailers pulling out all the stops to reinvent their store formats — and doing so in a way that pays healthy respect to consumers’ ramped-up digital expectations.
Without further ado, here’s a look at two of the most interesting and buzzed-about store innovations we’ve seen making headlines throughout July 2022.
YEEZY GAP Takes Times Square by Storm — New York City
OK, maybe we’re bending the rules by calling this a store innovation, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the recent headline-grabbing event involving the YEEZY GAP merchandise collection.
On July 21, Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) made available his highly anticipated collaboration with GAP at physical retail for the first time, with items being offered at GAP’s Times Square flagship in New York.
According to GAP’s official press release, “GAP’s Times Square flagship store has been reengineered and distilled to its most essential form in YEEZY GAP ENGINEERED BY BALENCIAGA’s vision of utilitarian design.”
So, what exactly is that vision for utilitarian design?
As reported by Hypebeast, “Customers that made it into the store were greeted to a stripped-back space lined with surplus bags filled with a selection of YEEZY GAP ENGINEERED BY BALENCIAGA styles. Items were marked with simple pricing notes via tags on the surplus bags. The progressive minimal retail experience reportedly serves to ‘fulfill the vision to deliver YEEZY GAP design on a larger scale.’"
While there was some social media backlash centered on Ye’s use of construction bags to display the merchandise, as with most of his product drops, demand was still high. And when it comes to Ye’s vision for retail, he’s not done yet. Spurred by recent trademark filings, there’s talk that YZYSPLY-branded stores are in the works.
As Georganne Bender, principal at KIZER & BENDER Speaking, remarked on the RetailWire discussion forum, “Kanye West’s creativity is off the charts; I would love to see a store designed by him.”
While we’re not exactly sure what YZYSPLY stores would entail, we have a good idea they’d find themselves featured in a future Store Innovation Watch blog!
Nike Introduces Newest Retail Concept, Nike Style – Seoul
Nike is no stranger to store innovation. Over the years, the athletic leader has introduced several experiential store concepts, including its Rise and House of Innovation formats. On July 15, Nike was back at it again with the launch of its newest retail concept, Nike Style, which opened in Seoul.
Nike Style is described “as a remixed expression of sports retail culture that blurs the line between physical and digital. [It] offers unique digital-physical spaces for consumers to express their personal style together. A content studio for local creatives, product experts, and shoppers opens up space for the community to create content on their own social media channels with customizable backdrops.”
In addition to fostering an environment that lends itself to social media sharing, other notable features of the concept include “gender agnostic lifestyle product zones” and “QR codes throughout the store that offer augmented reality experiences related to product innovation.”
A common theme across several of Nike’s various retail concepts is to blend/blur/bridge between digital and physical. It looks like it hit the mark once again with Nike Style, with the next Nike Style store set to open in Shanghai in fall 2022 before expanding into other countries in the future.
Send Us Your Store Innovation Suggestions
The energy in retail is palpable as retailers refocus on the future of their stores, the role stores play in the overall retail ecosystem and how to modernize store experiences to connect with today’s digitally immersed shopper.
If you come across a retailer that has announced a really unique and exciting store concept — or you are one of those retailers yourself — drop us a note at AptosNews@aptos.com. We always appreciate learning about fresh retail concepts to feature.