Andreas Piedfort wants shops with no physical goods

In the lead-up to each issue, Frame  challenges emerging designers to answer a topical question with a future-forward concept.

As more and more purchases happen online, physical shops need to attract clients with extra experiences and services. The power of personal contact remains a drawing card, though: a PWC survey reported that 78 per cent of customers feel that sales associates with a deep knowledge of a product range are the most important reason for visiting a bricks-and-mortar store. How will we shop in the future? For Frame 123, we asked ÉCAL graduate Andreas Piedfort to share his ideas.

Andreas Piedfort explores the concept of nomadic retail through industrial design.

In the future you envision, retail is still physical?
ANDREAS PIEDFORT: Absolutely. Physical retail spaces offer an experience that I could never get online. I love going into town on a Saturday afternoon, hopping into a few shops, chatting with retailers, trying on something new and bumping into friends. I also like the idea of taking your store anywhere and having your products reach out to many types of clientele. I want to combine all this with integrated technology that will offer retailers and customers limitless possibilities in a continually changing physical environment.

Instead of going to Milan, Milan would come to you

Like a pop-up store 2.0?
Kind of, but with more focus on quality and design. The store would contain no physical goods, so anyone could rent these retail spaces, and brands could move in and out quickly without spending much time on relocation and organization. Setting up a network of chameleon shops would offer brands of all sizes the freedom to showcase their goods in different places, making the retail experience more interesting and surprising. Instead of going to Milan, Milan would come to you.

What would the basic setup be?
Walls, ceilings and floors would be made of micro-elements – think minuscule flip clocks – each in hundreds of colours. Storytelling is the number-one feature in a space where digitally driven elements together compose one big moving picture that takes customers to landscapes beyond the shop. The walls would also allow each element to move slightly, creating a 3D effect.

Piedfort's concept sees tiny pixel-like wall elements combine to form a large animated mural.

The concept can be applied to a clothing brand’s flagship store, for example, or to the runway of its latest fashion show. You could be transported to a mysterious forest or to an all-marble setting that complements the collection on display.

What’s the number-two feature?
Mirroring. An integrated scan shows a selected outfit on the client. She can ‘feel’ the fabrics by touching a flip-pixel image. Floor items could be programmed to stick out or to form bundles of seats or racks, all in various colours and materials.

What happens if you want to buy something?
Once the choice is made and the size is correct, the purchased item is sent to the customer from a centralized depot on the same day, drastically reducing the carbon footprint.

How do you integrate a human aspect into the retail environment?
The idea is for shoppers to engage with the space and the brand, aided by a salesperson. What you find when you enter the shop is a changing interior. Showing interest in a certain product produces matching imagery, including a corresponding mise en scene.

Physical shops are often successful because they build up contacts and trust over time. How will this be possible when a space and its personnel change constantly?
The personnel go with the brand, not with the space. So every time brand X comes to your town, your favourite X salesperson will be there, too.

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