In a recent Trend report, the cultural strategists at Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve—the future-focused strategic consultancy—shared some signals of where retail is heading. Aware of the reports of the death of bricks and mortar, the Trendspotters actually found signs of life, and how vibrant IRL retail experiences can be. A few examples that prove that the future will not be store-free:
• Cactus Store, a pop-up that set up shop in NYC’s Chinatown, hails from Los Angeles, and presented nature- and plant-loving Millennials with a way to bond amidst 1,000+ plants. Adding to the eclectic mix: horticulture education, a clothing collaboration with Guess, screenings of movies set in the desert, and an Instagram feed with 20k followers. This kind of curated, whimsical experience is what makes turning up worthwhile and helps consumers connect with a new kind of tribe (evidence of the Clanning Trend identified by Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve.)
• Line Friends store in Times Square shows how a collection of emoji-like characters, made popular in Asia on the mobile messenger platform Line, has become a cultural phenomenon. The success of the characters and their heavily trafficked store points to the escapist interest consumers have in Down Aging, the Trend that tracks the urge to avoid the harshness of everyday life by indulging in childlike activities. It reminded our Trendspotters of the Museum of Ice Cream pop-ups– a place to go to feel carefree and happy. When shopping can offer real-time stress relief and a distraction from our burgeoning Anxiety Epidemic, it’s golden.
• Reform Ikea offers a mass-class service that captures the Egonomics (or personalization) Trend in action. Consumers today want everything tailored to what Faith Popcorn calls an “N of 1” – something that is as unique as the individual. Reform takes the utility and accessibility of Ikea cabinetry but allows people to combine that with higher-end touches to make it totally their own. For example, Ikea cabinets can be faced with more expensive and interesting materials, creating a one-of-a-kind kitchen that expresses the client’s personal style without the cost of entirely bespoke work. When one visits Reform, one sees the possibilities for self-expression that were otherwise unknown, creating a sense of discovery.
These retail experiences have experiential value, of course, but look at the other signals: They allow self-expression and an escape from the intensifying pressures of daily life. They bond visitors to new communities, and allow one’s individuality to feel validated. What can the Walmarts and Krogers of the world learn from these examples?
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