We’re nine months into working from home orders and lockdowns in many countries, and whilst retail has suffered (or at least some individual retailers have gone to their graves) there have been new shoots for a number of months now. Some retailers have capitalised on pandemic behaviours to find new opportunities, even to leverage traditional holiday shopping. And whilst it initially looked like luxury would take a terminal hit, there have been more than pockets of success there too as consumer
s who now have money to burn, having saved by not being able to travel internationally, itch to spend on ‘treats’ and upgrades. Here are a few of the latest examples: Leveraging the pandemic running rise: On Running, New York City flagship Further to the growth of sneaker retail during an exercise-happy pandemic in which Swiss running footwear brand On Running proclaim people have “found solace and joy in running”, and which I’ve previously covered on Nike new store experiences, On Running opened a 1630 square foot global flagship store in New York City on December 16. While Nike has gone down the usage experience path by leveraging celebrities and events, On Running – despite an investment by Roger Federer and a USD$250 top-of-the-line Federer tennis shoe – has focussed on using technology to customize shoes around the user’s gait. Customers are invited to run for three seconds on the open floor (rather than on a treadmill). Using hidden cameras and an invisible foot scanner which achieves an accuracy of +/- 1.25mm, the customer receives a (claimed) 99.5 per cent accurate reading on their foot shape which along with matches based on more than 50,000 runs results in three recommended shoe models and sizes. The store’s ‘magic wall’ which spans the store’s length and height and in front of which stands a red 3D printed rock replicated from the Swiss Alps, allows customers to analyze their running style through lighting up and showing their running profile including ground contact time. The wall includes every shoe in every colour and size, totalling up to 173 available shoes on display in the wall. A hidden switch opens compartments in the wall in order to try on the recommended and selected shoe. Virtual travel to a little bit of Cuba in New York: Guevara Streetery Given the relative absence of international travel in 2020, half-Cuban Alicia Guevara, owner of Clinton Hill sandwich bar and gourmet grocer Mekelburg’s determined what New York needed was “a little piece of Cuba to feel like you’re outside of New York City”. Guevara’s Streetery is a bright pink, predominantly outdoor, Cuban-inspired vegan café. Its archways – aside from performing a ventilation function – recall public squares in Havana, with a black-and-white tiled floor. The paint colour was chosen for its warmth, particularly on snowy days. Aside from the café, Guevara’s ranges its menu items for take-home sale, along with a range of ornaments and pet toys. Zooming in on earrings: Ippolita jewellery boutique, Chicago With many people dressing up their work from home outfits with statement earrings for the purposes of virtual meetings, portions of the jewellery sector have flourished. Upscale jewellery boutique Ippolita, after 20 years, has expanded from its Manhattan flagship to a new store in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile which opened on December 1 in time for Christmas holiday shopping. The store, perhaps unusually for jewellery, is all about touch and feel and try-on, with glass cases having been removed. The store has been furnished with home decor pieces from founder Ippolita Rastagno’s own luxury e-tailer Artemest. Touring Mediterranean villas, virtually: Valentino For those looking to scratch their travel itch virtually, Italian luxury house Valentino in December augmented its online shopping experience by creating virtual tours of a Mediterranean villa based on creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli’s home in Nettuno, Italy. The immersive experience helps customers discover products through exploring objects around the ‘home’, which includes secret rooms. Objects, including newly available products such as the Valentino Garavani Roman Stud bag, are in their in-situ settings and linked to photos and videos. The intention is to make the customer feel as if they are in a type of puzzle somewhere between a video game and digital art gallery, with clickable ‘clues’ such as voicemails, music from vintage record players, and walk-in closets. Fusing art and high fashion: Dior Lady Art popup, Shanghai The fifth iteration of Dior Lady Art, in which designers create their own versions of the iconic Dior Lady bag as a piece of art, in December took the form of a pop-up display in Shanghai DLA. Ten artists and collectives from around the world participated in the project, with designs and displays spanning nature, the cosmos, and poetry. The pop-up was linked to November’s Shanghai Art Week, which featured two flagship art shows: Art021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair and the West Bund Art & Design Fair, the only place during the pandemic where physical art fairs could take place and which thus saw an influx of luxury brands holding events. Luxury extends to electric vehicles: Lucid Air Studio, Miami On December 19 ‘advanced luxury’ electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors opened its first US east coast retail location, which the company dubs ‘studios’, in Miami. The Miami studio’s purpose is to have prospective customers experience its Lucid Air brand, product line-up and features. So far, so usual, if at a high-end price tag with vehicles ranging from USD$69,900 to USD $161,500. However, the Lucid Air doesn’t begin production until April 21, so the studios revolve around having customers ‘reserve’ their vehicle. This is achieved via means similar to those observed for Audi City and Toyota’s 360 Degree Showrooms. That is, with a virtual reality experience which allows personalisation of the vehicle’s exterior colour and interior finishes and materials. Twenty similar studios are planned for opening in the US throughout 2021. For those shopping from home Lucid provides a similar experience with a cloud-based ‘design yours’ configurator.