A blog describing Hay as a cool Copenhagen concept store made me realize that I didn’t really know what was meant by that term.  According to Insider Trends, a concept store “is a shop that sells a carefully curated and unique selection of products that connect to an overarching theme. Often they evoke a lifestyle that appeals to a specific target audience – they are inspirational. Handpicked products are pulled together from different brands and designers, and they usually span different lines, such as fashion, beauty and homewares. In addition, the display mixes these lines and products together in an attractive fashion.”

Author Cate Trotter continues, “Concept stores are about discovery and experience. So the products and design tend to change regularly to keep telling that story in new and interesting ways. Many of them offer extra experiential elements such as a café or events space, which help build a community around the lifestyle they embody.”

I must admit that I experienced an “ah ha” moment when I read this, because I’ve been in many concept stores without knowing that this was the best way to describe them.  Younger retailers seem particularly skilled at using this idea to appeal to their peers. They often combine clothing with other lifestyle products, as in the store that is the source of the illustration that accompanies today’s blog.  It is from Your Little Black Book’s article about concept stores in Amsterdam, and shows the range of products sold at Dépôt by Johnny at the Spot Amsterdam.

In addition to not limiting itself to one category of merchandise, a category store often includes an experiential component — food or beverage, for example, or the opportunity to participate in an activity such as browsing through a library of resources, working on a craft project, or trying out a new tech device.

The other aspect of a concept store that brings customers back time and again is the fact that it changes constantly.  The 2,000 square foot concept shop in New York called STORY “is a retail concept that takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store. That means every four to eight weeks, STORY completely reinvents itself -from the design to the merchandise – with the goal of bringing to light a new theme, trend or issue.” The store’s special events often feature cocktails, pizza, food sampling or a talk on a topic of interest to its customers. The changing themes are a sure draw for repeat customers, many of whom follow STORY on social media to see what is coming next.

Not all concept stores start from scratch every month or two, but all are focused on presenting a curated merchandise selection reflecting a particular point of view, lifestyle or design aesthetic — in other words, like all good retail stores they know their core customers and work hard to appeal to them.  By studying successful concept stores, we can learn something about the type of retail environment, merchandise and experiences that will help us attract the elusive younger demographic that is the key to our future success.  

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

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