April 27, 2021 / Trend

Why the 15 minute city idea in urban design can help us to create concept stores

During the height of the summer 2020, The Financial Times shared a piece titled ‘welcome to the 15 minute city’ that explores the future of urban design. The idea has been embraced on a global level and could provide the framework for designing retail and concept stores.

The headline followed the first period of lockdown, whereby people ceased to commute to their office spaces and spent 3 months reconnecting to their immediate surroundings. The new work from home lifestyle encouraged a new vision of urban design on a global scale. 

What is a 15 minute city?

The concept of a 15 minute city comes from “la ville du quart d’heure’’, which was developed by Carlos Moreno, a professor at the Sorbonne university in Paris. The essence of the concept means that the needs of daily life can be sought after by bike or by foot within a 15-minute radius. This includes work, shops, entertainment, home, healthcare and education. 

Where is this 15 minute city concept coming to life in urban design?

In Italy, Milan’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala has drawn inspiration from the concept of 15 minute living, piloting a trial for reimaging city life in order to improve conditions of living for people and the environment. Over in the French capital, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo is also focusing on the same idea. As part of her successful re-election campaign in 2020, she hired a commissioner for the 15 minute city, Carine Rolland to bring to life this new urban planning model. The goal is to seek ways to strengthen local communities and increase the overall happiness and wellbeing of residents. Fast track to April 2021, 15 minute cities are also being explored within the UK. Not too long ago, Property Investor Today asked the question as to whether Nottingham would be the first true 15 minute city due to its ‘The Island Quarter’.

So what does this mean for retail strategy and creating concept stores?

Firstly, hyper-locality is becoming an increasingly more important factor to consider whilst developing retail strategies. 60% of people within the UK stated that lockdowns have elevated their sentiments surrounding their local area. People have begun to rediscover and fall in love with their immediate communities, taking pride to show support where they can. One of the ways this can be achieved is by shopping local and supporting local businesses. The impact of  Covid19 is forcing retailers to reconsider the relationships people have with stores in their local communities and the expectations they now carry when it comes to shopping. With the rise of the 15 minute city, retailers must align themselves with this urban planning model and ask questions as to how the role of the store can not only adapt to this climate, but take an active role in redesigning this future.

So where are we already seeing an example of urban design impacting concept stores?

On the streets of London’s Belgravia, Anya Hindmarch’s ‘Village’ retail strategy is going to come to life on May 17th 2021. The strategy includes five permanent concept stores all located on Pont St, surrounding  the brand’s first ever store that opened in 1996.

Each store is said to embody their own retail identities.The line up includes: The Anya Café, where people can purchase pastries and cakes that will be playfully designed in line with the brand’s identity;  The Village Hall which is a concept store that will be regularly updated with newness and resemble a pop up style format. The first concept is set to include a hair salon as well as cocktails and shampoo bottles that can be personalised. Next up we have The Labelled Store and The Bespoke Store, which will offer personalisation for purchases and finally there will be The Plastic Store which will sell the brand’s I Am Not a Plastic Bag totes that launched last year.

When interviewed about the project, Hindmarch commented that she believed the next ten years will focus on localisations in lieu of globalisation. Whilst this project supports our trend predictions for retail embodying hyper-locality, it demonstrates how the 15 minute city idea can be delivered through retail design and concept stores.

As we progress into the future of retail, brands must take lessons from urban design as we begin to rebuild our society. Retail must acknowledge how it can participate in the goal to create 15 minute cities and concept stores must strive to become local institutions within a community through design and stores experiences.