Beyond the bounds of transactions
We’re in a new era of stores. As consumers, we had become fatigued with traditional retail long before the global pandemic. And as we navigate this ‘post-pandemic’ world, we are even more attuned to what we want to see – and what we don’t.
Do we want to purchase products and services? Sure, but we can do that from the comfort of our own sofas, without glancing up from our phones.
So, what draws us out of our homes and into a physical retail setting? It’s the excitement, the fear of missing out on a brand experience which cannot be replicated elsewhere. For some of us, we’re drawn in by social media opportunities, but for the most part we are genuinely eager to physically experience something which may not be available again tomorrow.
We’re also eager to immerse ourselves in methods of retail which may not necessarily be driven by purchases. Which brings us onto our latest forecast: experiential escapism.
From the global pandemic through to the national cost of living crisis, we are collectively experiencing reports of doom and gloom. While brands and retailers are struggling to react with reduced costs to ease our outgoing spending, they are instead choosing to amp up their experiential efforts. This week, we discuss the brands tapping into the realms of escapism and our thoughts for the future.
Zero10 x Crosby Studios
With references to digital detoxes, the term escapism can be tricky when we discuss augmented reality. However, a recommendation to reduce phone usage before sleep and limit our time scrolling social media apps is in a different league to the world of AR experiences. And the Zero10 pop-up with Crosby Studios is a perfect example of how we can be immersed into the realms of digital technology as part of experiential escapism.
Zero10, an augmented reality fashion platform, sought a retail space which would ‘celebrate the digital nature of their collection’. The interior of the pop-up, designed by Crosby Studios, features a pixelated design and is suggestive of the integration between physical and virtual. This pixelated pattern is present throughout the entirety of the space, from the hallway through to the changing rooms and even featured above with various ceiling tiles removed.
Juxtaposing the interiors is the fashion collection, which is an ‘explosion of colours, textures and patterns’. The collection is accessed via QR codes and digital apps, allowing visitors to virtually try on the items of clothing in a designated dressing room.
George Yashin, CEO of Zero10, made it clear that sales were not the sole objective of this experience. Instead, the brand wanted to create a new kind of pop-up store which would “attract a new generation of consumers, but also evolve the format of pop-ups that are not about product display any longer”.
It wouldn’t feel right to discuss the objective of escapism without drawing attention to the all-encompassing wellness trend. Galeries Lafayette’s unveiling of their ‘Wellness Galerie’ is a dedication to retail escapism through self-care, indulgence and tranquillity. In fact, it is the very first department store in Europe which is wholly dedicated to wellness, and it spans the entirety of their lower ground floor.
The space is divided into multiple well-being focused areas. Visitors could find themselves booking lymphatic draining, personal training sessions, body sculpting or even requesting a private bubble for unique events. Or they can simply browse the multi-brand beauty or athleisure departments, scouring some of the most holistic brands from across the globe. Who, what and when is not as important as the feeling Wellness Galerie hopes to evoke from their visitors, as they seek to ‘reconcile body and mind’ through retail experiences.
The products and services are a true commitment to wellness, but the method of escapism is also echoed in the design of the space. With earthy tones and soft lighting, the curved design of the entire space accentuates the 'cocooning environment’ of the Wellness Galerie. In fact, it’s decadence is deliberately different to the rest of the store, allowing visitors to truly experience a disconnect from the outside world.
Following over 2 years of reduced social activity and a fear of interaction, our experience of physical retail was relatively obsolete. And even as we returned to ‘normal’, there have remained some tensions around connectivity and closeness.
Eyebrand brand Polette have sought to break down these barriers with their store formats, offering refreshing designs which are not reflective of the usual experiences. Their latest store in Antwerp is a true realisation of experiential escapism and is the last to feature in our latest retail forecast.
The space has been designed by zU-Studio, as well as the designers within Polette. Amazingly, the entire store is designed as a functioning piano installation. The ‘black keys’ (actually white for the purpose of the store) merchandise the eyewear, while the ‘white keys’ (actually floor-to-ceiling mirrors) are working piano keys. A light signal within the white keys indicates when to press the designated key, encouraging visitors to play a perfect harmony, either alone or as a collective.
It is the first store in the world whereby the furniture is transformed into a musical instrument and it is unquestionably immersive. Architect Javier Zubiria imagined the store as “a temple, a moment in time where not only you are here to shop, but also share an experience”.
It is a retail experience, an art installation and a music studio all in one space. But mostly importantly, it is a break from the norms of shopping experiences and delves need into our need to connect, to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Experiences have been shaping our identities, lifestyles and social value for decades. From travelling the world to luxury wellness, we have become accustomed to immersing ourselves in experiences which disconnect us from the daily norm. In fact, we hold these experiences far above the material, opting to favour memories and social interactions over product ownership.
The future of retail is closely linked to these methods of escapism and brands must consider how experiences have become the newest ‘limited edition’ for consumers. We seek them out and we dedicate our attention to them, but most of all, we celebrate the brands and retailers providing us with this escapism.
We are moving beyond the bounds of transaction and brands who aren’t considering immersive reveries will be left behind.