Where can you find the world’s most inspiring shops and retail concepts? For his legendary RetailHunts, RetailDetail founder Jorg Snoeck is constantly looking for astonishing concepts, so he likes to take you around the world in a mini summer series. This week: Tokyo, vegetable gardens and a metaverse.
1. Sephoria, online
From offline to online to… the metaverse. Beauty retailer Sephora has also staged its physical annual pop-up events in a virtual setting since the pandemic. Sephoria: Virtual House of Beauty is held in a 3D environment in the form of an interactive house where all the rooms have different functions. Visitors can freely explore a Home Theatre where master classes will be streamed, a Family Room for round-table discussions and a Backyard for get-togethers and parties.
The event takes place annually in September. Attendees need to register beforehand to access live and recorded content from brands, influencers and surprise guests. Attendees can also buy an exclusive Experience Kit there, containing real, physical products. The brand wants to offer customers a unique, innovative and more inclusive beauty experience this way.
2. Extracoop, Bologna
All around the world, hypermarkets everywhere are struggling, partly due to fast-growing online sales. In an attempt to revive the format, Italy’s Coop Alleanza has developed an original concept: Extracoop. The concept, based on shop-in-shops in department stores, can be found in three of its largest Hypercoop hypermarkets in Bologna, Modena and Ravenna (9,500 to 12,000 sqm).
The retailer is redrawing the classic model of a hypermarket, as all food is located in the central part of the shop and non-food is placed around the edges. Around it are also all kinds of separate shops, including specialised boutiques where sales staff can really engage with the customer. For example, if they have sold a pair of glasses, the customer enters the hypermarket through the back door and simply pay at the cash registers.
3. Prinzessinnengarten, Berlin
In Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, city garden Prinzessinnengarten grows forgotten vegetables, herbs and flowers over an area of some 6,000 m. Hives with a population of 10,000 bees help pollinating the plants.
Visitors can also eat dishes based on the harvest. In 2020, the initiative split and opened a new, 7.5 hectare community garden called Prinzessinnengarten Kollektiv in the Neukölln district.
4. @Cosme, Tokyo
Online beauty platform @Cosme opened its first flagshipstore in 2020 opposite Harajuku Station in Tokyo. The store spans 1,300 sqm over three floors and offers 20,000 items from 600 brands. Like the website, the physical shop is based on data: products are not displayed by brand or style, but ranked by popularity. Indeed, in the online shop, customers are encouraged to score and comment, while employees are true ambassadors who blog and vlog about their favourite trends and products.
The shop offers extra experience in two Tester Bars, where visitors can have their faces painted and find more info about each product on tablets in multiple languages. They can also visit the shop virtually via the app. By the way, those with the app also get to visit the exclusive lounge on the third floor, with a make-up room and oxygen boxes. When they visit the store, customers get loyalty points worth 5 yen. We are not the only ones to find this example inspiring: Amazon took a 36 % stake in the cosmetics retailer’s parent company.
5. Gentle Monster, Seoul
A store is like a church for a brand, and exclusive eyewear brand Gentle Monster is another example of that, causing a furore among Hollywood and K-pop stars alike. The designer label employs six people to design its futuristic sunglasses, but uses as many as sixty to turn each shop into a visual masterpiece. As such, these are more contemporary art museums than shops, populated by video installations, six-legged robots, stuffed donkeys and life-size dolls straight out of a sci-fi film.
Gentle Monster calls the strategy ‘future retail’, where experience, emotions and creativity are central. Sometimes, it strays quite far from retail: in Seoul’s Hong Dae district, the brand presents ‘Sacrifice’, “a sacred story about gods and rituals”. “Witness the birthplace of the ‘Eye of god’ and experience the ritual of sacrifice to the gods”, or so they say.