The world of retail is always changing, but the last 18 months has seen monumental change in the industry as it deals with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. While many retailers have had to change in the short-term, the lasting effects of Covid-19 will be reflected in retail stores around the globe in the long-term as the role of retail stores will be redefined.

Even through the rise of online and the many people that have said the physical retail store is on the way out, over 65p in every £1 is still spent in actual stores according to the January ’21 ONS Retail Report. Taking everything into account, this is still a phenomenal amount and immediately highlights how important the retail still is, and will be in the years to come.
What will inevitably happen, and there is no doubt that it needed to happen even before the onset of Covid-19, is that the retail store of the future will change and it will look different as retailers contend with changing consumer wants and needs in the new normal.

Nike House of Innovation, Paris, France
Nike House of Innovation, Paris, France

What is the store of the future?
While Covid-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the rise of e-commerce, there will always be a place for bricks-and-mortar retailing. What the pandemic has done is accelerate future retail trends as businesses across every continent look to adopt new services and technologies. In her article entitled ‘Six Predictions for the Future of Retail’, Rosalyn Page highlights that while the crisis has shuttered many high street stores and seen retailers and consumers flock to e-commerce, a return to physical stores will happen and with a new emphasis.
Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst and Founder of NBK Retail comments: “There will be fewer, but far better stores. Bricks-and-mortar retail will become a high-touch, sensory-driven experience. There is an opportunity for retailers to start innovating with the physical
space again.”
In a report by Agile Retail entitled ‘Fixing retail stores 2021 and beyond’ they point out that post-lockdown, people now want, even crave, a deeper, more emotional relationship with the brands they love through physical stores, and as retail brands adjust to a new symbiotic existence with online purchasing, both channels will become increasingly harmonised.
The report goes on to say that for the first time, innovation and agility are truly at the heart of retailing. Successful and progressive retailers are defining a new era of agile retailing – shorter, more flexible commitments, modular and adaptable retail builds, and experiential, entertainment-led retail concepts are growing exponentially.
Meanwhile, an article by Kati Chitrakorn called ‘Rethinking the store of the future’ highlights that the future retail store will be all about new imperatives such as safety first, fulfilling online orders ahead of consumer-facing sales, offering touchless experiences and focusing on personalisation for those brave enough to visit.
Thinking about the store of the future long term, an article entitled ‘Five themes that will shape the Store of the Future 2030’ by Nick Miles, Head of Insight – Asia Pacific at Retail Analysis from IGD says that the world in 2030 will look very different to today and that retailers and suppliers need to work harder to evolve store formats so they reflect the changes taking place. The themes that Miles points out are that stores of the future need to be:

  1. Exciting and experiential – Stores need to give shoppers a reason to visit and standout from their competition. In the future stores will need to look to deliver experiences that cannot be replicated online, which will help to drive footfall and boost shopper loyalty.
  2. Digitally enabled – Digital solutions need to be seamlessly integrated throughout stores of the future, in fact even now retailers are rapidly drawing forward innovation pipelines with tech-led solutions that both supports the shopping experience as well as aiding the operation and helping team members do their jobs.
  3. Highly efficient – They need to balance theatre with refined operating models to drive down the cost of doing business. As more trade shifts towards the less profitable online channel, maintaining profitability in stores will be a key focus for retailers.
  4. Omni-channel native – The store of the future will deliver a seamless omni-channel experience with a more frictionless and joined up path-to-purchase for shoppers. Retailers will adopt new solutions in-store that improve their omni-channel capability, boost online capacity, and make online more profitable.
  5. Naturally sustainable – This will be a core feature in store of the future as corporate and social responsibility is no longer a nice to have element, shoppers of today and especially tomorrow will expect retailers and suppliers to operate responsibly, and stores will play a key role in showcasing efforts in this space.
Dujiangyan Zhongshuge Bookstore, Chengdu, China 2
Dujiangyan Zhongshuge Bookstore, Chengdu, China

Examples of stores of the future
Launched during the pandemic by The Latest, their debut store in Berlin is a perfect example of a store of the future that exists in the now. In the store customers will a curated selection of the most innovative products from start-ups, young and established brands. Guests will be able to discover the latest product innovations from the fields of technology, fashion, fitness, mobility, beauty and many more. The idea behind the store is that retailers pay The Latest to house and sell their products, a new and innovative way for brands to sell and market their products, and a unique spin on the modern retail store that has a hand-on, customer-centric approach.
Across a total sales area of 2,000sq m and distributed on two levels, Interstore | Schweitzer have developed BRIDGE for Migros, the number one retailer in Switzerland. This innovative new store concept mixes gastronomy and retail. It was conceived as a connector between a diverse fresh food market, creative local partner catering and store events. The innovation of this store doesn’t stop with the offering either. To support evolution & adaptability of the experience, all furnishing elements are 100 per cent flexible and movable thanks to Interstore | Schweitzer’s Flexstore™ solution offers the opportunity to adapt the store layout as required and to quickly change modules in a cost-effective manner.
Launched by Harrods, H Beauty is upgrading the way people shop. In-store and online, customers can discover exciting make-up, skincare and fragrance from a host of over 100 exciting brands – from legacy names such as La Mer and Dior to pioneering, next-generation newcomers. The enjoyment of H beauty doesn’t just stop at product though – it’s the destination to see and be seen. Situated at both Lakeside and Milton Keynes, H Beauty includes interactive Playtables where people can experiment with make-up, skincare stations for mini treatments plus Instagram-worthy Champagne bars at both of the brilliant destinations.
Just last month Apple previewed and opened their newest retail location at the historic Tower Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. One of Apple’s most significant restoration projects to date, Apple Tower Theatre aims to inspire even more creativity in the heart of downtown. The site is Apple’s 26th location in greater Los Angeles and anchors the corner of Eighth Street and Broadway. In the heart of the store is the Forum and signature video wall, which sits underneath the fully restored arch and is surrounded the theatre’s original balconies. The expansive auditorium, surrounded by embellished arched bays and restored bronze, displays all of customers’ favourite products, including the all-new iMac, iPad Pro, and Apple TV 4K.
In the Netherlands, wellbeing company Rituals Cosmetics market their 20th anniversary with the launch of its first experiential concept store. Called The House of Rituals, it is located in the Spui in central Amsterdam and offers Rituals complete hair, face, hand body and homeware ranges, including several exclusive lines and wellness experiences. This concept store includes ground-floor retail space which takes customers on a multi-sensorial shopping experience that features plenty of interactive and Instagram-worthy installations for visitors to discover their favourite Rituals products. The ground floor is also home to the ‘Rouhi’ restaurant and the first level is dedicated solely to showcasing Rituals’ enhanced home range. The second and third floors — set to open this summer — will feature a ‘Body Experience’ floor and a ‘Soul Experience’ floor. The Body Experience floor will be home to a body spa that will offer specialised massages, luxury facials and professional beauty consultations and treatments.

Google, New York City, USA
Google, New York City, USA

Technology giant Google has launched its first-ever physical retail store in New York City. Situated in Chelsea at 15th Street and 9th Avenue, the new space provides customers with hand-on interaction with Google’s line-up of devices and services – from the Pixel phones and Nest products to Fitbit wearables and Pixelbooks. In line with what customers of today and tomorrow are more aware of the new opening has achieved LEED platinum, the highest sustainability certification in design and construction that is only present in fewer than 215 retail spaces across the world. Visitors to the store are welcomed by physical and digital products that line the store’s windows. Once inside, a light-filled space hosts a 17ft tall circular glass structure called the Google Imagination space. Here, customers can interact with screens and learn more about the company’s products and technologies. For those not sure where to start, an expert store team is available to answer questions, offer repairs and troubleshoot issues on the spot.
This article has highlighted that the store of the future will be more experiential and be a place that will stun visitors and make them want to return. Well, Zhongshuge Books in China has hit the nail on the head with their store in Dujiangyan in Chengdu. The spellbinding experience was designed by Shanghai-based architecture firm X+Living and the two-storey space appears cathedral-like, thanks to the mirrored ceilings and gleaming black tile floors which reflect the bookcases. Upon entering, shoppers encounter C-shaped bookcases, which create a series of intimate spaces. In the centre of the store, towering arches and columns take advantage of the full height of the space.
Globally-renowned retailer H&M is making waves in the area of sustainability with their H&M Looop model. As sustainability continues to expand in the mainstream, the brand has found a new innovative way to communicate solutions. Looop by H&M is the world’s first in-store recycling system, turning old garments into new ones. In just eight steps, Looop shreds your old garment and knits a new one from the old fibres. No water, no dye. This theatrical piece of sustainable manufacturing has been installed into the basement of H&M’s Drottninggatan store in Stockholm. The technology behind Looop has been developed by The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) in collaboration with the non-profit H&M Foundation.
Nike is one of the biggest names in the retail world and they are now reaping the rewards of the ‘New Retail’ strategy it pioneered five years ago. Alongside streamlining its wholesale accounts, Nike has also been investing in local, community stores alongside innovative flagship experiences. Last year saw the opening of its third House of Innovation, on the historic Champ Élysées in Paris. This 2,200sq m flagship combines hero merchandising with immersive, digitally-powered services. The Nike app is central to enriching the experience, allowing touch-free browsing and purchasing, AI fitting, personalisation and expert services that are unlocked when you become a member. Powered entirely by clean energy and using sustainable materials in its design, the brand highlights its ‘Move to Zero’ initiative throughout the store, sending a positive message to the growing number of ‘conscious consumers’.
In October this year, umdasch The Store Makers will unveil Bründl Sports, the most sustainable sports store in the Alps, a completely new and innovative shopping highlight at the foot of the Kitzsteinhorn in Kaprun, Salzburg. The shopfitting, as well as the digital solutions, are being implemented by umdasch The Store Makers according to a concept by the architectural bureau blocher partners. The flagship store will follow the company’s comprehensive sustainability orientation. In addition to ecological aspects, the sports expert also places a special focus on the areas of economy and social issues. Across the 2,500sq m of total floor space, the experts from umdasch Digital Retail in Linz have been commissioned to supply and install the hardware for numerous technological and digital touchpoints, such as video walls, projectors, individual screens and sound systems.

The Latest, Berlin, Germany 2
The Latest, Berlin, Germany