As window shopping is increasingly done via the consumers’ handheld devices, retailers are questioning the value of traditional storefronts in acquiring passers-by. As a result, in the age of click-and-collect, shops are starting to face inwards to heighten intrigue. But while outside kerbside presence is traded for concealment, inside the roles are reversed. The fitting room, previously tucked away in a hidden corner, now takes centre stage, becoming a backdrop for livestream shopping and retail theatre.
Shenzhen – Windowless retail is on the rise as storefronts are losing their role as a key merchandising tool. Traditionally used to communicate brand identity, enable product discovery and draw in passing customers, window displays now have to compete with a myriad of handheld and wearable devices. That doesn’t mean retailers are surrendering to the screen. They are well aware of the fact that social media drives sales, and to benefit from that, their stores should facilitate online sharing.
With retailers adopting inward-facing strategies, the battle for customer attention is moving from the street side to the inside. Here, shopkeepers are creating engaging environments that not only offer visitors an exciting offline experience, but also fill the role of Instagram bait. In these retail theatres, the fitting room, to an increasing extent, plays a leading role. Why? Because stores in general are literally becoming destinations to try things on, and are no longer per definition places of transaction.
In Frame 129, Docee Dong, cofounder of Daylab, pointed out that their retail clients are often more concerned with creating a memorable experience for customers than with earning money in-store. ‘If clients enjoy their visit, they’ll order online later,’ he said. As a result, on-site inventory can be minimized in favour of large – and highly prominent – try-on zones. So in designing the physical space of e-commerce platform Heyshop, that’s exactly what the Shanghai-based studio did.
Architecture practice Studio 10 took a similar approach when tasked to design a store for Chinese womenswear brand Geijoeng in Shenzhen, China. The shop’s entrance corridor and window displays are paved with semi-transparent glass brick, producing the mysterious atmosphere inherent to the abovementioned windowless storefronts. Once curious shoppers enter the 120-sq-m shop floor, they are welcomed by ‘ghostly’ layers of reflective and translucent materials. Central to the design concept is – you guessed it – the fitting room. Quite literally that is. The acrylic tube, which is lined with a theatrical green velour curtain from Raf Simons’ collection for Kvadrat, is carefully placed in the middle of the space.
The use of the fitting room is becoming a social experience rather than a purely functional act