Retail Trends 2019: Feasibility through Flexibility

In the battle to remain relevant, retail operators are finding that they have to rethink the rhythm of their stores. But being able to promise a much higher turnover in product selection, a programme of events and installations to challenge their local museum or a day-to-night strategy that could put local hospitality venues out of business requires new retail infrastructures. These must resolve two competing goals, marrying flexibility with consistency. Consumers want to see something new every time they cross the threshold, with the caveat that it must always maintain the same level of execution in terms of material quality and curatorial concept. It should come as little surprise that this is being felt most keenly in China. Here a rapidly urbanizing population is evermore eager for novelty in cities that change at an unprecedented pace. At the same time, this most digital-first of populations demands truly inspiring IRL experiences if they are going to be connived to reduce their screen time. Here are three stores with three different strategies to grab their attention.


A material palette that helps map space

With 815 sq-m to play with at a new Shanghai location, e-tailer By requested the services of Spacemen to create a physical space that would allow for maximum-speed shifts while still retaining the brand’s high-streetwear aesthetic. ‘They can be displaying menswear today and be completely swapped out to display pop art or an army of Bearbrick figures the next day,’ explains lead architect Edward Tan.

The first step to achieve this was to divide the store into a series of separate spaces. To denote a sense of transition, they each feature different material treatments, particularly in flooring, in order to allow employees to change a particular pocket of the store at a time. That means some areas have marble flooring made of six kinds of stone, while others have raw grey epoxy and white terrazzo flooring; some are wrapped by red-steel columns or grey textured plaster while others are covered in mirrors, to camouflage their existence – a bit of a secret room, if you will. Some spaces use display alcoves, as needed.

How about a launch party or a fashion show for a capsule drop? Spacemen brought in 600 upcycled shipping pallets, which can be turned into multi-tiered stadium seating or a display area; the pallets can be moved or re-stacked depending on the size and type of the event.

Read more here.


A retail system that supports new talent

WeMarket is a new retail strategy developed by AnyShopStyle, which promotes up-and-coming designers in China. From the 300 young fashion designers that feature in AnyShopStyle’s 19 stores, the brand picked a select group to join WeMarket – retail’s answer to WeWork – at its Beijing location.

Design studio WAA were tasked with developing a concept that could both harmonize this diversity, whilst still leaving room for individual expression. The solution was a bespoke system of movable stainless-steel racks that incorporate lighting. Members can opt for a minimum of three mobile frames, in addition to four plinths and an LED sign, all within a 1.8-by-2.7-m zone. Despite the surrounding environment’s intentional neutrality, curtains and other furnishings can be attached to the frames to alter the overall colour scheme. The adaptable system also enables the client to expand WeMarket’s open spaces to host events such as fashion shows and exhibitions.

WAA was drawn specifically to the term market. ‘It’s an idea that has been so diluted by the current prevailing retail environment,’ explains Di Zhang, principal partner at WAA. ‘But we feel the market is the best form of shopping. It promotes individuality and interaction.’

Read more here.


A thematic concept that makes the experimental accessible

Social House by Xintiandi is a 4000-sq-m multifunctional space that includes retail, food and beverage and lifestyle offerings under its roof. Rising in Shanghai’s central business district, the space is spread across two floors of the recently renovated Xintiandi Plaza. Because of its location, Kokaistudios designed it with one goal in mind: to bring inside the freedom of open-spaced social activity.

The most direct example of that concept is the area that serves as gardens that are arranged thematically, according to the four seasons. There, a rotating programme of pop-up shops, exhibitions and events take place.

Visitors start their journey from the primary retail platform: the Spring Garden, a colourful and open space that hosts fashion, style and beauty pop-ups. Despite the constant rotation of different brands, the wood chosen for the display elements keeps the aesthetic of this wing very consistent. Moving on, the section labelled as Summer dives in the outside-to-in approach by focusing on the nourishment of body and mind: there’s a cooking school and a teahouse, as well as a gallery space with regular exhibitions on travel and photography. The Autumn Garden is reachable via a spiral staircase, where a bookstore, as well as a café and bakery by Elle Décor await. Dedicated to wellbeing and health, the final aisle – Winter, of course – hosts a gym.

Read more here.

We've compiled a collection of trend roundups that reflect on this year in retail. Find them all here.

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