‘We need to stop looking at retail as just places that sell things.’ The way we use retail is having a visible impact on the city, from the different typology of spaces incorporating flexible working, cafés and shopping in one space, to the increasing numbers of gyms taking up retail spaces on high streets, and so the industry needs to rethink its approach to creating successful environments. Chaired by Gardiner & Theobald’s Katie Metcalf, this lively exchange of ideas focused on how we can create retail spaces that enliven the consumer experience beyond just products, and de-risk physical shops for a sector in flux.
In a sector hit hard by technological advances, many of the presentations explored how retail is adapting to the big disruptors. Lara Marrero from Gensler drew on the possibilities – such as the internet of things allowing devices in our homes to do our shopping for us, allowing us to spend our time well by devices anticipating our needs. Today in Shanghai, you can order a mini-mart like an Uber and it can bring the shop to your home, and looking forward, autonomous vehicles will be able to pick someone up on route to a shop so retailers can brand that experience from the moment they leave the house. On a physical level, the industry is experience a mode shift, retail is not just a store anymore. We have to create something much more meaningful than a passive space, and programme the space to fulfil consumer wants and needs – whether this is Lululemon offering free yoga classes in store or Nordstrom Local in the US, which doesn't sell any products but instead provides services: click and collect, alterations, manicures etc.
NLA NextGen contributor James Dunn, Architectural Assistant at WestonWilliamson+Partners presented their plans for the Waterloo international terminal – repurposing the old Eurostar platforms to bring them back into everyday use, but also in the coming years repurposing the three levels beneath to transform them into a new retail destination. As the retail element won’t complete until 2020, the practice is exploring radical possibilities for the ‘world’s first shopless shopping mall’, to enliven the hoardings. Discussions are ongoing, but the practice is looking at digital screens which can show a range of interactive experiences – from a live stream of the London Aquarium to a project in South Korea where the platform screen walls transform into a virtual supermarket – you scan the items you want, and when you make your return commute, the items are waiting for you at the station.
Managing Director of Romford-based Made Public, Sarah Walters, described how they are intervening in a place that was particularly hit by the recession to bring vitality and footfall back to the town centre, from the Retailery – a business incubator hub and a cultural venue created in an abandoned nightclub – to the Quadrant, an art-deco shopping arcade. Helping support start-up companies to grow and move into the high street, the two schemes have helped existing tenants and attracted new. In 18 months, the Retailery has supported six businesses to move out on their own onto the high street, whilst the Quadrant is now at 90% occupancy.
CallisonRTKL’s Doug Shaw enthused about the future of the sector, noted the increasing importance of brand values, creating engaging immersive environments. Traditional department store concessions are evolving into much more bespoke, curated spaces – if a customer identifies with the environment and the product selected for them then they identify with the brand. H&M acted on this years ago – with six sub-brands all catering to their specific customer profiles.
Becky Jones, Head of Partnerships at described how important flexible is to the sector to de-risk it for occupiers. Appearhere– acting a little like Airbnb or Tinder for landowners and occupiers – allows brands to bring an idea to life in a space that suits that idea. With over 150,000 brands looking for space on the network, companies are using it to test the market in new regions, to see how the community reacts to the product. At Old Street station, 500 different brands have now featured, giving the landlord a 400% increase in rent. By matching existing shops with other brands through their ‘in residence’ programme, smaller brands can connect with other audiences: most notably through the 100 brands in residence at Topshop who access Topshop’s 30,000 visitors a day – one jeweller that became the best-selling concession has now hired 20 staff to support him in the business’ future growth.
Presenting their plans for Lower Stable Street, part of the Coal Drops Yard development in King’s Cross, Frederique Jungman, Project Manager, Argent and project curator James Bowthorpe of A.R.C discussed how their plans seek to connect both digital and physical spaces and allows retailers to spill out into the public realm to activate the area.
Part of NLA’s Retail Programme
By Jenine Hudson, Senior Programme Curator, NLA