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  • Anne Heaney, Director

The Hot New Trend in Retail - Not Selling Anything.


As retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to get shoppers (particularly new, young ones) into their brick-and-mortar stores, a slew of luxury brands seem to have a strategy for engaging consumers: Get them to go somewhere else — not to shop, but to hang out.


Dolce & Gabbana opened a "cultural hub," as it's calling it, on Mercer St. in Soho, New York. While one can shop there during the day, the space is first and foremost a luxurious, Instagrammable clubhouse for the youths. It hosts monthly events, like a concert featuring up-and-coming bands, or a "drink and draw" night.


Also this summer, Coach debuted Life Coach, an experiential pop-up in New York meant to "lead guests on a journey of self-discovery." It contained exactly zero products for sale; instead, it housed immersive and photogenic rooms.


Chances are, you've seen at least one of these activations on Instagram, but aside from their photogenic designs, they all have one major (and initially surprising) thing in common: Unlike the many ephemeral retail concepts that came before them, the main goal here is not to sell you stuff.


This concept didn't exactly come out of nowhere. There was February’s Chanel Beauty House in LA featuring room after room of Instagrammable moments. Tiffany & Co. opened its Blue Box Cafe last fall, resulting in a robin's-egg-blue flood of "breakfast at Tiffany" Instagram posts, and it's still tough to get a reservation there.


Today, we're seeing more instances of brands creating these experiences outside of their stores, simply because people don't need to go to stores anymore. Experiences give them a reason to come into a retailer's space and have an interaction with a brand. Another goal of these experiences is, of course, to generate social media content that those who aren't in attendance will see.


Many of these experiential concepts are meant to engage millennials and generate social media content, but, increasingly, that's not enough.


We are getting to a point where consumers tire of 'brand museums,' those that are just backdrops for Instagram shots. Consumers are starting to seek more from those experiences — to learn, play, connect (with a brand or like-minded individuals) or feel a sense of wonder.


Culturally, it seems luxury shoppers have moved away from being on the surface and about status; it's about all what makes you an interesting person, and that's the music you listen to, your food and your wellness.

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