Social Retail: Creating spaces to connect with others

Written by Owen Wright

8 May 2019

Urban development and funding cuts are leaving consumers with less access to social spaces where they can freely gather. Many traditional public spaces such as local pubs, gardens, bookstores, parks, libraries and community centres are experiencing rapid closure or serious under funding. Retailers have the opportunity to bridge this gap, creating a community hub where people can socialise with others. In this post we look at how creating store formats that encourage people to gather and linger can elevate brand experience.

A Place Worth Staying

When approaching the design of stores brands are finding success creating spaces that:

  • Allow and encourage consumers to stay
  • Facilitate and organise social events
  • Create hubs where people can come together and be sociable
  • Deliver on experiences beyond transaction
  • Emphasise community engagement


Image Credits Left to Right: CBS NEWS, Richard Cadan, Devorah Lev-Tov, The Mother Overload, Cindy Ord

Having shut the doors to its famous Fifth Avenue store in 2016, FAO Schwarz recently opened a new flagship store in New York City. The vision for the reimagined toy store is to be a destination for families to make memories. The store now features a range of in-store experiences aimed at keeping visitors in store, building a positive association with the FAO Schwarz brand. These include; the Alex Spa bath and hair spa, where kids can get hair and nail treatments; the Melissa & Doug FAO Mart, a toy grocery store where kids can shop for play food using mini grocery carts; and Discovery #MindBlown, a lab area where kids can watch experiments being performed using Discovery-branded chemistry sets.

Showfields: The New Department Store

Image Credits Left to Right: by Chloe, Regency Centers, CFDA, Map Quests, Shopify

Opening its doors in December 2018, Showfields brands itself as ‘The Most Interesting Store in The World’. Based in New York’s NoHo district, the department store aims to offer their customers an unparalleled retail experience across four floors. Seeing an increasing number of direct to consumer brands testing brick-and-mortar formats, Showfields identified an opportunity to offer prime retail space that’s both customisable and serviced for a monthly fee.

Launched in phases, the fourth floor features a co-working and events venue which the creators of Showfields want to establish as a community hub. A hub for art and design will occupy the third floor, hosting a range of exhibitions throughout the year. The first floor is currently home to a range of online first wellness brands including, toothbrush manufacturer Quip, sleep brands Gravity and Boll & Branches and haircare service Function of Beauty. Currently in collaboration with ecommerce platform Shopify, the second floor will host a range of the site’s beauty, lifestyle and home brands.

Retailers that provide consumers with spaces that facilitate social engagement will prove popular in the years to come. Expect to see designers increasingly experiment with social hubs, offering visitors not just products, but places to come together.

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Written by Owen Wright

Owen joined the team as Trend Researcher in 2017 and supports the Strategy and Insight team delivering bespoke consultancy to brands and manufacturers. He previously worked as an innovation specialist at Godfrey Syrett. He has a degree in Industrial and Product Design from the University of Teeside.

We send the bespoke trend reports out to different departments in our organisation from product development to digital and customer teams. The report acts as internal inspiration that everyone can read and get something from. The feedback we get is overwhelmingly positive.


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