Lockdowns haven’t prevented some retailers from innovating with both new physical store openings and digital concepts. Physical experience still rules in Scotland, while Charlotte Tilbury goes the VR route and luxury isn’t yet. Here’s a round-up of the latest store openings from around the globe. Beauty continues to embrace VR and AR: Charlotte Tilbury At the other end of the retail experience spectrum, Puig-owned beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury has turned to virtual reality to replace in-s
e in-store shopping experience in a locked down environment. The brand recently launched a holiday -hemed virtual store with multiple ‘rooms’ decked out with twinkling ‘lights’, through which visitors are guided by a video avatar of founder Charlotte Tilbury herself. Video tutorials and an augmented reality tool allow for virtual ‘try-ons’ of products, as well as personalised advice and product recommendations. Visitors can watch live events and invite a friend to shop with them on a video call. The virtual store is the latest in a slew of digital initiatives by Charlotte Tilbury, including on-site shoppable livestreaming, virtual consultations, and TikTok influencer marketing. Obsess, the digital agency employed by Charlotte Tilbury for the virtual store build, noted that the beauty brand was just one of 15 of their clients going live with virtual stores during November, equivalent to the number of VR stores the company had launched during the first ten months of 2020. Clients are working with the agency to run social media ad campaigns on Facebook and Snapchat that enable the VR experience to be directly loaded into the user’s social apps. Zero waste goes mainstream: Asda, Leeds Last year, zero waste was mostly seen in independent stores, but in signs that it is going mainstream, major US supermarket chains such as Kroger, Albertsons and Wegman have announced a raft of plans and measures around reducing or eliminating single use packaging, bags and plastics by 2025. UK supermarket Asda has just opened its new sustainability store in Leeds, featuring 15 refill stations, where customers can bring their own containers to fill up on more than 30 household staples such as tea, coffee, pasta, rice, washing powder and detergent, as well as personal hygiene items such as shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and handwash. Asda has partnered with global brands such as Kellogg’s and Radox to facilitate the endeavour. At a time when customers have been increasingly shifting to packaged fresh produce in the interests of safety and hygiene, the Leeds sustainability store has taken the opposite tack, ranging 50 fresh produce lines, all loose and unwrapped, from cauliflower and mushrooms to apples, cabbage and tomatoes. Supporting this is a ‘Greener at Asda Price’ initiative, a promise ensuring that loose and unwrapped products will not cost more than their wrapped equivalents. Based on trials and customer feedback at the Leeds store, Asda plans to roll out more sustainability store locations in 2021. A cellar door – without the tastings: Glenkicnchie Distillery visitor centre, Scotland Diageo’s Johnnie Walker has opened the first of a network of ‘visitor experiences’ at its Glenkinchie distillery in the Scottish lowlands, which along with three other locations, will culminate in its new global centrepiece, Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh, due to open next northern summer. A cellar door on steroids, the refurbished original warehouses offer a café, bar, store, and tour of the distillery and its gardens. Unveiled at the end of October – the week before the UK lockdowns were announced – the visitor centre is high specification and sensorially-oriented, with thoughtful cottage-like touches such as bicycles with baskets and plush chairs combined with high-tech touches, such as projections and AR images, which wash over the tasting tables. The history of the distillery is outlined on one wall. But according to TripAdvisor reviews, it’s the informative and engaging tour that’s the highlight and even without the ability to taste the whiskeys due to strict Covid regulations, participants are able to smell the whiskies and are given samples to take home. As with cellar doors in Australia at time of writing, visits to the Glenkinchie distillery and tours must be booked in advance. Luxury holds on with personalisation: Dior, Canada Goose The latest Bain report on the luxury goods sector and outlook indicates that luxury goods categories have declined between 10 and 30 per cent during 2020, although it predicts the sector will re-attain 2019 sales levels by 2022, driven in large part by Chinese consumers. Nevertheless, store openings in the sector continue apace, with the latest Dior store opening at Hong Kong’s Pacific Place. Taking a more traditional tack than some of Dior’s more innovative pop-ups such as the cliff-face-clinging store in Capri, the Pacific Place store features a ‘soft, feminine’ colour palette with gold flecks. Artworks from the Negropontes Gallery line the walks and furnishings have been designed by a number of well-known Italian designers. As with the Capri pop-up, the Pacific Place store features a number of personalisation options for its Book Tote, Saddle Bags and footwear. Meanwhile, Canadian luxury outerwear specialist Canada Goose is set to open its first store in Dublin, Ireland in December. The launch is simultaneous to a similar store in Berlin. The store will be the only location in Ireland to feature customisable hoods for select Canada Goose parkas. The store will offer the somewhat curiously named WaitWhile service, in which customers can schedule an appointment via an app to receive ‘white glove’ service instore from a ‘brand ambassador’ who curates an assortment of products based on the customer’s needs, preferences and sizing.