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. In this last episode: trainer gimmicks, a toy wonderland and virtual reality.
1. Adidas DXB, Dubai
Adidas put sustainability central in its first flagship store in the Dubai Mall. The store delivers that message through technology: it is the most digitally connected Adidas store, from the shelves to the ceiling. For example, visitors can bring products from anywhere in the shop to the screen-lined RFID Smart Fitting Room.
However, the experience goes beyond digital gimmicks: in addition to Dgrade products made from recycled plastic bottles, consumers can have their shoes repaired and attend workshops on how to make their trainers last longer. At the Maker Lab, customers can personalise their shoes with the help of designers, making them unique and therefore irreplaceable.
Adidas also opened a separate Adidas DXB corner in its first Middle Eastern flagship store, selling limited edition products exclusive to Dubai. The items are specially designed for the local market and consumers. For the first time in the region, outdoor items are also available for sports like hiking and trailrunning, as these are becoming popular in Dubai.
2. Uniqlo Ginza, Tokyo
Uniqlo Ginza, featuring twelve floors in Tokyo’s fashionable shopping district, celebrated its tenth anniversary in style with a complete renovation in 2021. The flagship store has since become a huge lifestyle and shopping hub, with a coffee bar, an in-house tailor and a florist.
Eye-catchers in the shops are the Life Wear installations on each floor, where well-known garments from the brand are displayed like museum pieces. In terms of services, customers can get measured for a tailor-made suit on the tenth floor, while women can visit the sixth floor for underwear fittings.
Other features are the collaborations, which really anchor the shop and integrate it into the neighbourhood. In the café, for instance, you can buy biscuits from pastry shop Ginza West, while a selection of items – such as T-shirts and bags – were made to celebrate the reopening, in collaboration with other retailers and independent brands in the neighbourhood.
3. Sephora Beauty Hub (several locations)
Sephora makes its stores not only beauty hubs, but also data hubs. The cosmetics retailer manages to give customers personalised recommendations and product suggestions – not based on segments or target groups, but truly unique per customer based on their individual purchase history and browsing history. Data is currency for the company and a fully individualised customer experience, where the make-up retailer can predict exactly what each customer wants, is the proverbial gold.
The chain mainly digs for that gold with its popular mobile app, which heavily uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality. The data strategy goes much further, however: Sephora also wants to know who is not buying, who enters the physical shop and how consumers move along all the different channels. In-store staff should also be able to give everyone a personalised experience based on their skin type, grooming routine and previous purchases. “We want to recognise everyone”, the beauty specialist says.
The Pantone ColorIQ test in Sephora physical shops is one such ingenious trick: smart cameras take a picture, analyse the customer’s skin tone, match it with the exact Pantone colour code and then guess products tailored to each person’s unique complexion. Since every face is unique, this gives Sephora a database of consumers around the world. Combine that data with shopping behaviour and the AI tool could prepare the right products for each shopper ahead of time.
4. Camp, New York
New York-based entrepreneur Rachel Shechtman first brought the idea of A/B testing to her physical shop, Story. That was a trial and error playground for brands and consumers, in which the theme and all the content changed every few months. Brands paid Shechtman to display their products there, while getting data and feedback from consumers in return. They constantly gauged reactions to products and displays, sometimes just by putting other items next to each other. Story no longer exists today, but Shechtman is building on the concept at Camp‘s experimental and radically experience-focused toy shops.
The stores teach children about brands through play: they are given all the freedom and space to play in the unique, creative brand decors in the shops. Meanwhile, the brands also get to know the children – and their parents’ wallets. Today, the concept has grown into a chain with nine shops in the United States, where children even go to celebrate their birthday parties.
5. WeFood, Copenhagen
How appealing does WeFood‘s USP – supermarkets full of expired products – sound? If you think “Not really”, think again. The chain of Danish grocery shops against food waste founded in 2016 by NGO DanChurchAid. The grocery stores sell products donated by producers and retailers at discounts of between 30 and 50 %. Unlike normal social grocers, the stores are open to anyone – and it is catching on.
Products approaching their sell-by date, seasonal produce, packaging that has something wrong with it or wonky vegetables: the team of more than 200 volunteers collects and sells them. In the first year, more than 220 tonnes of food have already been saved from landfill and more than a million Danish kroner was raised for charity. In fact, all proceeds go to anti-famine initiatives, while the shops also prove a point themselves: that things can be done differently and without waste.