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Making shops exciting again: Lessons from the Nordics (part 1)
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Making shops exciting again: Lessons from the Nordics (part 1)

刊登 19.11.2018
Grigor Grigorov

In this three-part blog series, Grigor highlights three aspects that help make contemporary Nordic stores exciting places to visit: 1) Product and presentation 2) Dwelling 3) Convenience.

In May I took part in a Nordic retail study trip organised by Revo, formally known as the British Council for Shopping Centres. Over six days, we visited more than 30 retail destinations of varying scale, location and business models in Oslo, Stockholm, Malmö and Copenhagen.

As has been reported widely, the UK retail property sector is currently greatly disrupted by the advent of online shopping as well as shifting consumer expectations and values. The changes have caused a number of closures of what used to be big high street names, with many more predicted to follow.

For this reason, everyone owning retail property is looking for new ways of making their assets exciting and attractive to both customers and retail brands. This does not simply mean turning a shopping centre into a theme park, but creating genuine places which connect with the customer on an emotional level and align with their new needs for learning, self-expression and sharing.

While there is no universal formula for achieving this, some of the places we visited are beginning to address the current challenges and point towards a possible future for bricks-and-mortar retail. In this series I consider three aspects which make those contemporary Nordic stores exciting places to visit, with the first being product and presentation.

1. Product and presentation

In the words of retail futurist Howard Saunders, people are now looking for “the” product and not “a” product. The huge variety on offer for any service or physical object has gradually transformed every consumer into a connoisseur discerning product quality, properties and provenance. What we buy today has to be the best, has to have a story, be authentic and be either unique or of a clearly identifiable ‘brand camp’. Shops need to offer their customers not just a physical object, but a sense that they are buying something special which enhances their personality and lifestyle. Below are three examples of how those expectations have influenced the design of physical retail space.

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Displaying it like art

The Normann in Copenhagen sells beautiful designer furniture and household objects, but their store looks nothing like a furniture shop – it is curated like a gallery or an art installation. The visitor meanders through curious arrangements of designer household products – cups, chairs, storage boxes, tables, china. The layout of the store changes often, creating a sense that each visit is a one-off opportunity to see the products presented in an unusual, quirky context.

Through its store, the brand inspires its customers to see the lifestyle potential of the products, as objects of art bringing aesthetic pleasure beyond their everyday use. This can only be achieved through inhabiting a physical space.

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Showing the latest

Mall of Scandinavia has what they call The Designer Gallery, a dedicated area where emerging brands can lease smaller spaces over periods of up to six months. For a newly established brand, this helps reduce the financial risks, while allowing it to appear in a high-end shopping centre amongst established global names; it also allows the mall to present lesser-known brands to a customer audience perhaps too used to the standard retail anchors present in every shopping centre.

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Be there or miss it!

The Lobby is an innovative retail space designed for the near future where most products will be purchased online; a brand’s presence in a physical store will serve as a way of validating the connection with its customers as well as a marketing tool.

The store owners have recognized that digital brands do not need huge shopping floors, but a showroom-style presence at the social heart of the city, and their leasing model responds to this. The space is rented by the square metre for periods between one and four months, and each shelf, hanging rail and display unit represents a different small brand, designer or product.

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The space recognises that it’s not square footage that generates revenue and sales, but placing surprising, innovative or unusual products in the correct environment. This is supported by its leasing model allowing for nearly any retailer to appear on the high street, renting as much or as little space as they choose.

Designed to allow for fast layout adjustments and with merchandise changing every month, the store provides a snapshot of the latest and coolest independent brands, to be seen in one place for a limited period only and not to be missed!

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