“Online shopping has liberated what in person retail can be.”

Last week, Formroom‘s Managing Director, David Roberts, joined a panel discussion featuring Becky Jones of Someday Studios, Koral Abrahim from The Ready House, and Sarah Parsonage of One Question at London Build Expo.

The focus? an in depth exploration of a much anticipated project, working alongside Westminster Council, to redefine Oxford Street as a revitalized in person retail destination, utilizing spaces formerly occupied by (evicted) ‘American candy stores’ and vape shops, and making way for emerging British and independent brands.

Project Oxord Street: Formroom’s project in collaboration with Someday Studios focuses on the rejuvenation of Oxford Street, using ex ‘American candy store’ and vape shops as new homes for independent and up-and-coming brands.

Locational Branding

The repetitiveness of global brands can homogenize shopping districts. Formroom, Sunday Studios, and The Ready House are addressing the challenge of creating a distinct local brand and atmosphere for Oxford Street itself, which has sadly faded over time. Just like the unique identities of famous shopping districts such as Carnaby Street or Brick Lane, ‘locational branding’ can create a strong appeal when attracting footfall.

When placemaking for shopping districts and the brands that inhabit them, important questions need to be asked: What does the place mean to customers? How do brands fit into the locational ecosystem? How is it curated in order to maintain a strong identity? Strong locational branding can have a powerful effect on the area itself and the brands that inhabit it.

People over Product

Community led shopping spaces are a priority for new generations of consumer. As brands become increasingly more aligned with lifestyle and values, we want our brands to act as community spaces for like minded people, and places to celebrate our favourite brands and what they mean to us.

As market squares were the epicentre of communities and towns, a place for purchase but also for community, taking retail experiences back to their cultural foundations is a key requirement in building the stores of today. As e-commerce becomes the place for convenience, we’re craving community and social experiences from our IRL stores more than ever. Flagships from retail giants such as Gymshark and Nike have prioritised community in-store – and reaped the financial benefits.

(You can read our article about how community is transforming retail here.)

Supreme in LA puts community and lifestyle at the heart of it’s retail experience. (Image: Supreme)

How are Retail Experiences Valued?

A sole focus on profit falls short in evaluating the metrics important for assessing shopping experiences. Quantitative data alone lacks insight into consumer experience – the ultimate hot topic in 2023.

Relying solely on revenue can harm a district’s reputation and long-term visitor appeal. As brands compete in the future, experiential metrics such as enjoyment, engagement with new brands, and dwell time will become increasingly important to consider.

The New Retail Experience: ‘Online shopping has liberated what in person retail can be’.

Contrary to viewing online shopping as a threat, it can be viewed as unlocking the potential of what in-person retail can look like. Physical stores are no longer confined to endless racks of products – Instead, they become spaces to foster brand connection and room for experimentation.

The two-way relationship between digital and physical retail allows brands and products to be discovered online or in real life, seamlessly transitioning to a purchase in either space. Online shopping expands the horizons of what in-person retail can achieve – and what this means for brands.

Project Oxford Street will be a fantastic place for new brands brands – and a new generation of retail experience. In the meantime, let’s take a look at how brands are pushing the limits for in-person retail that are inspiring us at the moment:

  1. On Running, London

On Running in Regents Street is an exercise in ‘shoppable science’.

2. Arc’teryx, Beijing

Arc’teryx brings the spectacle of the natural world inside.

3. Stone Island, Munich

Stone Island’s Munich store is a material heavy ‘temple to innovation’.

4. Ader Error, Seoul

The recent opening is a fusion of online and offline spaces, sound and art.

5. Yinka Ilori X Courvosier, Selfridges London

The bar space is a sensory celebration of the joy of colour and flavour.

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