January 2019 was possibly the bleakest month yet when it came to reports on the high street. With the festive season in 2018 spectacularly failing to increase footfall to traditional stores, reports were wall-to-wall doom and gloom.
Fast-forward a couple of months and there are some green shoots. In the UK we’ve had news of Ikea’s first major London store opening in years, complete with communal roof garden and community Learning Labs. And in the US, on the back of the impressive footfall uplift experienced on the back of its Amazon returns partnership, Kohl’s has expanded its partnership strategy. It will now be leasing out space in 10 of its stores to gym provider Planet Fitness, after a similar successful leasing initiatives with grocery provider Aldi.
We’re excited by this turnaround. ‘The death of the high street’ feels like a jaded story. It’s not a death. It’s a re-imagining of the traditional shopping experience. And nowhere is this clearer than in the grand unveiling earlier this month of ‘The Vessel’ at Hudson Yards in New York – described as the world’s first ‘instagram-bait’ shopping experience.
Here, the main focus in one million square feet of retail food and culture, isn’t the usual flagship store; it’s a huge honeycomb ‘artwork’ installation of 154 interconnected stair flights and platforms – destined to become an iconic New York landmark.
The thinking? If you provide Instagram worthy experiences, the Instagram generation – and their wallets – will come.
And in yet more evidence of the blurring of boundaries between on and offline, retail and experience, a ‘Floor of Discovery’ at Hudson Yards will host showcase stores for born-online brands looking for new ways to acquire customers. Ironic? Yes. Clever? Definitely.
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