May 11, 2021 /Experience

How do concept stores support brand growth?

A concept store is a retail experience that seeks to engage with customers through a branded environment with excellent service and storytelling.  At the turn of the new year, Vogue Business published a report exploring the future of physical retail, detailing why brands are continuing to invest in new store locations and concepts stores despite lockdowns. Why, you might ask? The fundamental reason is that they accelerate brand growth and are a beacon for boosting awareness.

But why are concept stores so popular? We often have clients come to us, briefing us in to design a concept store or they reference concept stores that have inspired them as a starting point.

Concept stores, when done well, are places that bring new ideas to life. This in turn creates an inspiring customer journey and shopping experience. People are not just learning about products, they are being invited on a journey with their imagination. It is essentially storytelling, but supercharged. This is where brand growth can be found. Whether it is through the integration of an immersive art display, theatre, cinema, events, cafés or hair salons, concept stores provide customers with the opportunity to have an experience that they cannot have anywhere else, and particularly not online.

Concept stores in the post pandemic landscape

Last year, Digiday published that 2020 canceled concept stores. Due to store closures globally, it was a very tough year for retail. One notable closure was Brooklyn based Kinfolk. The brand’s concept store acted as part store, part cafe and part nightclub and was rightfully dubbed by the New York Times as a ‘cultural hub’ in 2014. Yet arguably, it is the notion of culture that makes concept stores so important and this is why we need them more than ever when it comes to retail and driving brand growth.

Back in February, amongst lockdowns that seemed never ending, Financial Times Editor Jo Ellison wrote: ‘oh god how I miss live theatre’. She continued her piece detailing how complacent she had been living in a city, enjoying the wealth of concerts, shows and events that were readily available on her doorstep. Yet, with society living in isolation and staying home, we lost our ‘culture revenue stream’ so to speak. Instead, we found ourselves in a cultural wilderness, restlessly trying to fill the void through binge watches of Netflix. More importantly, she wrote that we had been ‘starved of that “goose-bumpy” sensation one feels when you discover a real surprise’. For us as retail designers, this is what we strive to achieve by creating concept stores. We are participating in a conversation surrounding culture and collectively we are hungry for these experiences after months of restriction and monotony.

Culture as means to stimulate brand growth

Strategist, author and founder of The Business of Aspiration newsletter, Ana Andjeclic shared that one of the key signals to predicting a brand’s success and ultimately their growth, is culture. Signals for success lie within a brand’s cultural language and how they communicate their values through this medium. This extends itself to art, other brands, social institutions, communities and influencers. Yet the funnel and platform for this communication and brand growth can be achieved via concept stores.

Concept stores as a rebound strategy for brand growth

Despite the setbacks of last year, 2021 is looking promising, with fashion retailer Monsoon launching a new boutique style concept store in Marylebone High Street, London. The store is seeking to assist with brand growth after the business fell into administration in 2020. Over in the US, Dick’s Sporting Goods is opening six new stores, debuting with their concept store: Dick’s House of Sports in Rochester, New York, where customers can enjoy an indoor rock climbing wall.  

As we edge closer to half way through the year, and European cities follow London and New York in terms of reopening, retail experiences have to be wonderlands of experience and fill the cultural void that we have all been so lacking. One vessel to achieve this can be through designing concept stores to promote a brand’s cultural capital. In this essence, retail is fundamental to brand growth.

Are you ready to create a strategy-led concept store to stimulate brand growth? Get in touch with our team.