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Blog / Aug. 29

Store Innovation Watch: August 2019

Nikki Baird

This month’s look at store innovation will explore a spectrum of examples, from the most “permanent” thing that a retailer can do to the most ephemeral. Store innovation always requires a commitment, because you’re putting your brand out there in front of consumers even if you have only one store. But some commitments are bigger than others.

GameStop Portfolio Approach to Stores, Various
GameStop has announced a design partnership with R/GA to design the future of their store experiences. GameStop and R/GA have identified four distinct motivations of gamers (immersion, achievement, creativity and community) and is designing different stores to meet each of those motivations. So, new store formats will not be cookie-cutter and universally applied but will instead address in one store the need to support hosting local esport leagues, while another store will feature only retro games, or an area will be dedicated to trying new games.

This portfolio approach to stores – the right store for the right surrounding audience – is not really new. Best Buy pioneered the approach in the early 2000s. But I think it’s an idea increasingly coming back into vogue. With a driving need to localize assortment and personalize the experience, the easiest way to manage that from a store perspective is to segment and then to manage a more diverse store base that more granularly addresses those segments’ needs.

North Face SoHo, New York
North Face’s SoHo store is the first of what is expected to be a total store refresh by 2024. The store is designed and built with sustainability in mind, including environmentally friendly materials and paints. But it’s also designed with sustainability in terms of the longevity of the store design – so that the store materials last longer and require less refurbishing over time.

Also significant, North Face is pulling inventory out of the store in order to make more room for community and event spaces – a consistent theme among new store designs, especially larger formats.

Intersect by Lexus, New York
Lexus may be a luxury car brand, but that has not stopped them from doing more to create branded experiences. Intersect by Lexus in New York is the third such space created by the manufacturer, joining ones in Tokyo and Dubai. It features curated products made exclusively for Lexus, a café, an event space, and now also a restaurant.

The company bills it as part of its “commitment to supporting innovation on a local, national and global level” and as a “lifestyle hub.” It seems every retailer and many luxury brands feel the need to open restaurants of some kind, and so it’s only a little facetiously that I have to ask, “What does a luxury driving experience taste like?” I guess I’ll just have to go to Intersect by Lexus to find out.

Stylist Closet Roving Pop-up Store, Manila, Philippines
I was just in Manila, at a time that coincided with this roving pop-up store, and I’m very disappointed that I didn’t know it and get a chance to see it in person. Pam Quinones is a celebrity stylist in the Philippines, and she is partnering with Style Closet to curate over 100 brands into four distinct style looks that will be available for sale. The looks encompass clean and contemporary pureness, opulent and maximalist expressive, raw and weathered natural, and nonconformist unpredictable. The styles are available for sale in a pop-up format that is touring several malls around Manila.

This is a combination of several store innovation themes: pop-up, curation, limited time, and tie-in to an influencer. The fact that the pop-up is moving from location to location on a schedule but also is available only for a limited time is an interesting combination.

Tommy Hilfiger Staycation at the Williamsburg Hotel, Brooklyn
Tommy Hilfiger took over the rooftop pool at the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn for a limited time. What makes this stand out is that the brand accompanied the Instagram-worthy event with a digital pop-up for those who couldn’t make it in person. Instead of creating FOMO, those Instagram posts can lead to online customer engagement.

Busch Beer Mystery Pop-up Store, Location Unknown
Busch Beer offered the opportunity to win a lifetime supply of beer, for one day only – if you could actually find their pop-up location. The brand revealed clues on Twitter, leading hardy souls to a location in a national park. For every person who showed up, Busch pledged to plant 100 trees. Every person who showed up also filled out a form to be entered into a drawing for that lifetime supply of beer. No word yet on how many people showed up or who won.

AriZona Tea x Adidas, New York
The AriZona Tea x Adidas pop-up was so short in duration that it actually never opened at all. The pop-up store in New York was supposed to offer two types of Adidas shoes (which normally retail for $200+) done in AriZona Tea branding. Things got out of control when the two brands decided to offer the shoes for $0.99 (payable with $1 bills only). The line outside grew so large and unruly that police shut it down before the store could open.

This is something of a downside for pop-ups: they’re so easy to do compared to opening something lasting that it’s very easy to misjudge people’s response to what’s being offered. And the limited-time nature of the pop-up inspires a lot more frenzy than if people think it’s going to be around a lot longer. AriZona Tea isn’t the only brand to learn this the hard way – my all-time favorite miss in this regard is the McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce debacle – and I doubt they will be the last.