People Over Product: How Community is Transforming Retail

The future of retail isn’t just about what you buy, but who you connect with, and where you feel at home (or would like to).

Picture a retail store in your mind. What do you see? Shelves stocked with products, displays designed to draw our attention to multiple products, and overall messaging to BUY. While these elements still hold currency, there’s a new focus emerging in the world of retail: community.

Recent retail projects and pop-ups have demonstrated an interesting shift to a reprioritisation of community over product. Brands have always existed as a way to associate oneself with certain communities, lifestyles and values, but with more and more brands housing these communities physically within their retail spaces, the conceptual is becoming more and more physical.

Brands like Patagonia and Lululemon have, of course, been incorporating community and activity into their retail experience for years. Patagonia hosts events such as film screenings and activism workshop in their stores, while Lululemon stores offer yoga classes and wellness spaces.

Recent projects for major brands, show product being positioned as an accessory to the community space – not the other way round. We take a look at some brands prioritising community in store:

Supreme's LA store features a functional skate bowl as it's interior focus, alongside skateboarding, lifestyle and branded product. (image credit: Dezeen)

Supreme LA:

Supreme’s new offering in LA features the signature ‘skate bowl’ on a new scale, a functional, visually impactful in-store feature facilitating the brands skateboarding roots and affiliated cultures. Set amongst an industrial interior landscape, with concrete walls and floors, steel fixtures, and neon lighting, a range of supreme product, lifestyle pieces and artwork populate the rest of the space.

Gymshark's new store in Regent Street features gym, studio spaces, classes and associated lifestyle concessions such as with Joe & the Juice. (image credit: Gymshark)

Gymshark Regents Street:

Taking design cues from the functional aesthetics of the commerical fitness world Gymshark was born from, the new Regents Street flagship features a state of the art gym, which offers fitness classes throughout the day. Joe and the Juice also offers a concession at the location, offering a community hangout and an alignment with brands that share lifestyle values. Visually minimal, and practically flexible, Gymshark puts community and versatile spaces and it’s heart.

The Arcteryx Beidahu store acts as a mountain refuge and community space, described as a 'campfire in the snow'. (image credit: FRAME)

Arc’teryx Beidahu Resort:

As well as being a place where people can come together over love of product and mountain sports, the Arcteryx Beidahu store acts as a mountain refuge and community space, described as a ‘campfire in the snow’. Complete with café area, relaxed seating and a round fire place at the heart of the store – the very essence of a elemental and intimate community.

It is easy to see how sports and activity focused (skateboarding, wightlifting, yoga) are catering to these distinct communities in their physcial spaces. However, the question becomes more complex once we apply the idea of community led design being adopted by brands who’s community isn’t so distinct. In our day and age, communities and their associated values are far more nuanced – but super important for consumer profiling. Not everyone has a hobby as such, but lots of people belong to communities.

Take, for example, terms referring to nuanced communities coined on the internet – Gorpcore, cleangirls, A quick search of either will show you an aesthetic, lifestyle and most importantly a selection of brands associated with each. (Gorpcore: Arcteryx , Salomon) Cleangirls: (Glossier, REFY, La Mer, YSL).  This makes us wonder –


Is “community profiling” the future of consumer profiling?