At the WGSN Futures event held in Sydney recently, head of insight Lorna Hall discussed global retail trends and the importance of rethinking the store experience.

“The industry has been paying lip service to the experience store for a long time but it’s only recently that [retailers] have started truly innovating,” she said. “In a world moving rapidly…it is time to rethink the purpose of space and stores.”

Hall told the audience that retailers should “do something more interesting than selling” in their spaces. “Sell your store as a product—think about what it could do and achieve for you.”

Here are five retailers doing just that.


1. Samsung 837

The Samsung 837 space in New York City’s Meatpacking district doesn’t actually sell product. Instead, it offers a giant three-storey screen surrounded by stadium seating; a café; a concert series; a next-gen kitchen with guest chefs teaching classes; a one-on-one concierge-like service; a virtual reality space and even a running club in partnership with activewear brand Lululemon.

Rather than seeing the space as a traditional store, the president and CEO of Samsung Electronics America, Gregory Lee, said in a statement that the company “set out to build a marketing centre of excellence”.

The general manager of Samsung 837, Zach Overton, described it as “the flagship of the future”.

“Reimagining the traditional store experience, 837 is a fully immersive cultural centre featuring programming which will tap into people’s passions such as art, music, entertainment, sports, wellness, culinary, technology and fashion, all powered and enriched by technology,” he explained.


2. Merci

Parisian retailer Merci has become famous for its lifestyle concept, which has made it a must-visit destination for shoppers and design lovers from across the globe. Over a million visitors stream through the doors each year and are treated to constantly changing displays, themes and product categories.

“The consistency of our statement and the care we take in the curation of our products makes Merci a one-off shopping destination,” said Merci director Valérie Gerbi. “Our main concern is a reflection on contemporary life, our shop is a celebration of everyday urban life.”

Housed in a 150 year old, 1,500 square metre space that was once a wallpaper factory, the light-filled store features three floors of home décor, furniture and fashion—but this isn’t all. There is also a bookshop, florist, three cafés and a garden, offering customers plenty of ways to spend their time.


3. Pirch

Kitchen, bath and outdoor appliance retailer Pirch has created a complete ‘try before you buy’ experience for customers at its SoHo, NYC store. The brand encourages visitors to test drive all the merchandise with a carefully curated showroom that features more than 30 interactive vignettes.

The experience begins when you walk through the door with a barista giving out free coffee, and continues throughout the store. All products featured in the space are live, meaning customers can see everything in action.

“The human experience available at Pirch is what sets the brand apart,” chief marketing officer, Laith Murad, said in a statement.

President Andrea Dorigo agreed. “Pirch is driving meaningful change and innovation by empowering the customer and putting them at the centre of everything we do. One of the most compelling elements of the winning Pirch formula is the experience we offer our guests.”

This extends to allowing customers to take a shower instore at the Pirch Sanctuary and offering complimentary classes with top chefs so people can see the kitchen appliances in action. Customers have even been known to bring in dirty laundry so they can test out the washing machines.


4. Lululemon

The Lululemon flagship in NYC’s Flatiron district is packed with activities for customers to enjoy. There is a concierge service, which recommends nearby fitness classes visitors can attend. A community noticeboard helps shoppers discover new running routes or restaurants to try.

But the centrepiece of Lululemon’s experience-driven approach is Hub Seventeen, which has been designed as a retreat for customers. It offers fitness classes, monthly dinners, concerts and art shows among other things.


5. The Store at 180 The Strand

The Store at 180 The Strand in London is creating a new kind of experience. It bills itself as fusing art, music, food, fashion and broadcasting. There are also collaborations with artists, designers, craftsmen, chefs and creatives to bring together a like-minded community.

This means customers can work, socialise, eat, shop and host events all in the one space. The buying is just one small part of a larger experience.


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