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Is It a “Concept Store” or a “Pilot Store”

Concept store or Pilot store?

Whilst we were all holed up at home over much of the past two years, planning our next big moves over Zoom. We did not, perhaps, anticipate the number of businesses that were spending their energies back into the analogue space.   However, given the drop off in ecommerce sales and the joyous return to the physical environment, those that were thinking ahead, were thinking smart and on the right track. Are these stores called a concept store or Pilot store?

What is a Pilot store?

When strategising over the “store (or office) of the future” it is important for businesses to distinguish between a ‘pilot store’ and a ‘concept store’.  A pilot store is a new look store, new layouts, new merchandising solutions and new tech, but one that is scalable across your network. These ideally need to be tested swiftly and rolled out a lot quicker than the old days; as for sure you will be revisiting these again in the next 3 years if not ongoing. A good local example is Countdown who have been rapidly developing new format stores such as their Metro stores, and their Greener stores in Greville Road – all are scaleable stores for the future. 

What is a Concept Store?

However, if you are a brand with a footprint in a few global niche zones. Like 5th Avenue, New York,  Shibuya, Tokyo or Queen Street and Newmarket, Auckland, you’ll be wanting to look a lot further into the future and really hone in on localised current trends.  Here is where the opportunity exists for a concept store – a store that is unique to that customer base, a specific shopping mission or a behaviour you want to capitalise on. Or maybe a specific aspect of your brand offer – such as custom designed options.

We took a look at the 49 concept stores listed in New York alone and saw some interesting industry shake-ups, break-ups and new ideas for the physical world. 

A store, or an office space?

For every 1,000 New York City residents, four are Shopify business owners.  So it’s no surprise that the denizens of New York might enjoy a physical space where they can meet up and network with other store owners and possible suppliers and partners.  It’s here that they can go physically and get some support. There’s a bookable photo and podcast studio and opportunities to find and work with industry experts – often meeting them face to face for coffee.  So is this a store, or more of an office space?  Well, no, it’s a concept.

Google and Allure

“We wanted our first store to reflect the same approach we take to designing our products: making sure they’re always helpful to people.” said Google about its Google Store.  Taking a look at the pictures and some of the less than complimentary vlog tours on You Tube, I would say this one is more of a half-baked “me to” in the landscape of digital to analogue. 

We too have reflected on our analogue printed magazine titles in a digital world, so we were particularly interested in the move of Allure magazines, who not only closed their printed edition, but also opened a store.  The Allure store is an interesting retail concept born out of a magazine and true to the editorial environment, in its design and homely – bathroom-like feel.  What’s most interesting however, is the ranging.  There is no buying team behind the scenes who have come from a long career at Walgreens. This store is curated and merchandised by their editorial team and their influencers.

“We’re always trying to make shopping for the most highly recommended beauty products as seamless as possible. If a makeup artist can’t get enough of a certain undereye concealer or a dermatologist is singing the praises of a particular retinol serum, you won’t hear about it without an accompanying link to shop the recs. That’s just how we roll.”

Written by Elisabeth Ric Hansen

It all starts with a conversation over coffee.  Let’s meet.

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