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Store Innovation Watch: March 2021

With certain regions lifting their restrictions and retail beginning to turn back to some semblance of “normal,” retailers are still left with uncertainty around in-store traffic. Will consumers feel safe enough to return to the storefront? Will foot traffic surge to pre-pandemic numbers, or slowly make its way back?

As a result of these questions, and in response to the overall transformation push coming out of COVID-19, many retailers are looking for ways to innovate in-store shopping, bringing consumers new experiences and concepts they can’t get with online shopping. These are just a few examples we’ve seen in the news recently.

Nordstrom Leverages Home Fitness Trend with Tonal, North America
Earlier this month, Nordstrom announced a new partnership with smart fitness brand Tonal to bring shoppers a new customer experience. The Tonal concept, found in the Women’s Active department of 40 Nordstrom locations, will enable consumers to get a full demo or test out the digital exercise equipment themselves.

It’s a smart move for both parties. Tonal, who has yet to establish its own physical presence, can get in front of health-minded consumers, while Nordstrom can leverage the pandemic-fueled home workout trend to drive shoppers in store. With the massive growth and increased competition in the activewear category over this past year, perhaps this unique store experience will give Nordstrom a leg up.

Cole Haan Unveils Immersive and Innovative Concept Store, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo’s Harajuku district is now home to Cole Haan’s new GRANDSHØP flagship. The two-level store represents the brand’s most innovative retail concept, with connection, inspiration and technology at its core. The flagship features interactive elements, motivational quotes and emerging artists that serve to create a truly unique and immersive shopping experience.

For many, the restrictions, limitations and health concerns from the pandemic have created an atmosphere of isolation and loneliness. It is in this environment that Cole Haan has opened its imaginative new store concept built around human connection, something universally needed in a time like this.

Hy-Vee Announces In-store Nail Salons, North America
Grocery retailer Hy-Vee has announced plans to introduce in-store nail salons through its new partnership with The W Nail Bar. In addition to providing a new store experience for shoppers, the partnership will also include The W Nail Bar’s own line of all-natural products hitting the shelves in select Hy-Vee locations. Exact salon numbers have not been decided yet, but the first location is scheduled to open in Bettendorf, Iowa in April.

Swarovski’s New Store Concept Made to Dazzle, Global
Swarovski recently unveiled a streamlined and modern rebrand, with a new swan logo meant to represent the brand’s forward-momentum and “unrivalled craftsmanship of Swarovski’s master cutters.” As part of the brand refresh, the company is also rolling out 28 Instant Wonder concept stores in major global markets, including Milan, New York and Paris.

Described as a “feast for the senses”, the new concept stores are designed to mesmerize and awe with over-the-top installations mixing bright colors, metallic sculptures, and of course, crystals. They will also further engage customers by hosting both online and in-store activations including tours, previews and other lifestyle content. The Instant Wonder stores, as well as their strategic locations, are also part of the brand’s focus on higher-end positioning and exclusivity.

Payless Turns to Tech to Fuel Comeback, North America
After filing for bankruptcy in 2019, Payless is building the foundation for their return on enhanced digital and omnichannel experiences. The company just opened a new prototype store in Miami, Florida that leverages high-tech interactivity throughout the store, designed to amplify the customer shopping experience.

Among these digital touchpoints are touchscreen wall panels and an AR foot measurement chart to assist customers in finding the right fit. With plans to open 300-500 stores in the next five years, this tech-centered prototype store is Payless’ first step to remerging as a strong player in this highly digital retail world.

Target Upgrades Apple Shopping Experience, North America
Seventeen Target locations have been pegged for an enhanced in-store shopping experience for Apple products. While the retailer has sold Apple products for almost a decade, this new dedicated experience will provide shoppers with demos, additional accessories, and a more knowledgeable sales staff.

Feeling nostalgic? Want to travel back in time to explore the Store Innovation concepts that were making headlines in March 2019? If so, check out this blog from Aptos' Nikki Baird. "