Flagship futures

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What do the next generation of department stores look like?

Department stores are reformatting their layouts for more than a quick trip to the mall. Retailers are hoping to pull online shoppers back in-store by offering more diverse services to compliment the conventional shopping experience, offering hospitality, social centers, and self-care.

Selfridges's Superself campaign, courtesy of Selfridges.

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Retail therapy, reconsidered

Department stores are reformatting their offerings to cater to customer’s self-care needs. In February, Selfridges launched a month-long in-store campaign called Superself, spotlighting self-care, positivity and what the London-based retailer called “feel goodness.” The experience included multi-sensory pods aimed at reducing stress, featuring beauty products curated for a “future-ready mindset”, such as ingestible vitamins, “feel-good sounds” in the beauty hall, as well as a run club, self-help sessions, confidence coaching and sex-life reboot classes.

Alex Eagle is turning its stores into exclusive health clubs/elite health destinations. In February, the UK retail entrepreneur launched a pop-up for Alex Eagle Sporting Goods at 180 Health Club in London. For three months this spring, 180 Health Club residents and Soho House members can shop for Alex Eagle products before stepping into infrared and ozone saunas or a cryotherapy chamber, or after their IV vitamin drip or therapeutic massage. The space is designed for members to escape the busy city to socialize, relax, and recoup.

After closing all of its UK stores in 2020, Beales has now reopened three locations under new ownership, aiming to serve new consumers beyond the realm of retail. The top floors of the department store’s former Poole branch were transformed into a “health village” run by the National Health Service, with dermatology, orthopedics, ophthalmology, and breast cancer screening departments, as well as counseling rooms for those suffering from long COVID.

The Dior boutique at 30 Avenue Montaigne, courtesy of Dior.

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Retail staycations

Retailers are reframing their physical storefronts as cultural destinations. Luxury brand Dior rebuilt its storefront in historic Paris into a flagship museum. 30 Avenue Montaigne reopened this March with multiple places to eat, shop, and even stay overnight.

Guests who stay in the store’s guest quarters can shop at all hours, explore the museum privately, visit the olfactory or haute couture ateliers at any hour of the day or night, and enjoy a private cooking lesson. Dior reimagined the traditional luxury shopping experience, transforming it to truly feel like home. “You will essentially have the keys to Dior,” Dior’s chairman and chief executive Pietro Beccari told The Cut.

The Dior boutique at 30 Avenue Montaigne, courtesy of Dior.

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The new town square

Some storefronts are serving as community centers and social gathering places.

Bobby’s department stores have taken on a new format. The retailer opened a space in the UK town of Bournemouth in September 2021 that was formerly occupied by legacy British retailer Debenhams. This new-concept department store hosts a beauty hall, an art gallery and ice-cream and coffee parlor, alongside shopping and local artisans, in place of floors filled with clothing, accessories and homeware.

Bobby’s has indicated that its future plans include a hairdressing salon, dental services, a microbrewery, and even a smokery. Truly a gathering place, this department store is likening a shopping storefront into the new city center.

As online shopping increases in popularity, physical stores are rethinking the in-store experience to attract customers IRL. Retail giants are reformatting their storefronts into places for self-care and health, cultural destinations, and town squares.

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Shopping online is convenient, and now a normal part of retail. But what can a physical store offer that ecommerce can't?

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