In order to compete with the convenience of online retail, meaningful experiences and brand engagement are crucial to driving in-store footfall. Pop-up events are one area where retailers are breaking new ground, moving beyond the simple provision of products with the use of immersive brand stories. “How we buy luxury goods and services is in a state of flux,” explains Fflur Roberts, head of luxury goods at global market research firm Euromonitor International. We are clearly still shopping: Deloitte’s Global Powers of Retailing 2018 shows that 90 percent of worldwide retail sales are still carried out in physical stores - but the ways and reasons we do so are changing.
“Our relationship with luxury brands is no longer simply transactional, it now needs to contain the human factor to develop a solid emotional connection. Consumers expect value at all stages of the shopping journey and it is now the new normal in retailing,” Roberts adds. She paints the picture of shoppers valuing experience over goods, with retailers playing a major role in proving value beyond price. “In the UK, for example, there is a fundamental need for experiences that bring happiness and emotional well-being - experiences that speak to [consumers] specifically and experiences that are authentic and honest.”
London’s iconic luxury department store, Selfridges, is such store already putting this into practice. The retailers recently launched The Anatomy of Luxury, a temporary pop-up initiative held in its concept space Corner Shop. The ongoing project explores the meaning of luxury in today’s digital world. It asks guest designers to curate the space with current collections in addition to archive pieces, limited editions and immersive installations as part of a week-long residency.
“Consumers expect value at all stages of the shopping journey and it is now the new normal in retailing”
The store recently tapped cult Belgian label, A.F. Vandevorst., who used it as part of their 20th-anniversary celebration: the brand set up an installation of 13 hospital beds based on the label’s iconic SS’99 runway show, featuring key looks from their archive. “Being offered a 120m² ground floor space at Selfridges, with a window on Oxford Street and three windows on Duke Street, was the ultimate way to showcase our creativity to the wider public,” designers An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx of A.F. Vandevorst explain. “It has a vast, daily footfall of international customers, so it was the perfect opportunity to directly engage with our consumer.”
A.F. Vandevorst’s enduring aesthetic has always been influenced by hospital iconography; turning the space into a hospital ward was a clever extension of the brand’s identity and narrative. “The great press and positive reactions we received demonstrated that people do really appreciate our storytelling,” the designers add.
To coincide with the installation, the designers also held a book signing for their newly published Ende Neu. A selection of 20 year anniversary merchandise and a capsule T-shirt collection with stylist and fashion activist B. Åkerlund were available for purchase throughout the pop-up.
The brand also collaborated with US retailer Opening Ceremony, which sold the capsule of ten T-shirts exclusively through stores in LA and New York. “Since deciding to focus more on collaborations and capsule collections, we noticed people really love the idea of more affordable garments with a great story behind it,” explain the designers, indicating the value and longevity that designers can also expect when undertaking such projects.
It is now obvious that retailers must adopt models based on creative in-store installations and rotating pop-up collaborations. But, willingness to embrace change but be conducted cautiously. “Thanks to digital technology, the rate of change in customer-preference has accelerated twofold,” Roberts explains. “Executing reinvention is extremely challenging. For successful execution, brands and retailers should embrace these changes gradually.”