During a challenging time for the retail industry, we are now more than ever aware of the necessity to be agile and responsive, culturally, socially, and economically. No business is the same or necessarily has the same objectives it had 12 months ago, but too often retail environments are of the moment. Designed to last 5+ years with little consideration into how it may adapt and change to technology, future trends, products, and the marketplace.

When we talk about flexibility this doesn’t necessarily just relate to what we can see but can also be, infrastructure, back of house and capacity for future technologies, as what is cutting edge today will be, and can often be quickly outdated. Likewise, it is not just about long-term flexibility but also short term. From monthly, weekly, daily to hourly updates which can transform the function of a space to provide additional services, experiences, create events or community hubs, maximising a brands ability to connect and engage its audience without adding to its physical footprint.

This remains front and centre of our design ethos, a space needs to work today, tomorrow, and beyond. Tesla will tell you, if you buy one of their cars that it will be better in two years than it is today. This is because it is dependent on digital technology and as they gather data and customer feedback, they can not only optimise the experience but, enhance it and add additional services. This philosophy should be applied to any retail strategy and concept, experiences should be continually evolving to engage with your ever-changing audiences needs in a meaningful and purposeful way.

With this in mind, we are also cautious with our approach, too little flexibility and you remove the ability to adapt, too much and it can be difficult to manage and also becomes extremely costly. There is always a sweet spot, and this depends on the brand, its customers, its products, services, and budget. Unfortunately, nothing will last forever but with careful consideration and understanding, creativity can ensure that brand experiences live and remain relevant for longer. Here are a few examples of brands who have taken different approaches to flexibility.

Luxury fragrance, jewellery, and leather brand Byredo’s opened its most recent retail offering in Los Angeles. Ben Gorham, creative director expressed that he wanted a space that could ‘change and morph over time, as well as express the collaborative nature of the brand’. As a result, the space offers flexibility with a gallery like feel to it and encourages customers to use the retail environment as a more communal space than retail. Byredo often collaborates with artists and designers allowing them to exhibit in the space, further adding to the ever-changing landscape of its design.

Knowing the hungry and growing appetite for its consumers, Diesel last year made some significant changes to their retail offering. Diesel analysed their store obsolescence which was time framed between six and eight years from opening and over the last couple years moved down to four years. The aim was to feed consumer demands without having to change the entire store. Diesel wanted a system that would allow the store to be easily refreshable but at the same time be commercially viable. Diesel deployed a new concept in their Copenhagen store, that could be easily adjusted to accommodate changing promotions, the ability to modify the ways in which product are displayed easily. Digital screens are placed within the store to allow brand messaging to be changed effortlessly. The concept allows the store layout to change based on trends, seasonality, and activations. A partnership was also made with street artists to ensure the store front can be ever changing and updated. A true chameleon store concept!!!

This concept does not only have to apply to retail, spaces we like to think the same philosophies should apply to any spaces that we heavily interact with, for example the workplace. This office space is Japan has an interesting approach to flexible workspace. Originally a lecture hall, the Shuhei Goto Architects converted the space into a flexible environment that allows space for multiple activities. By executing a tiered approach to the space, it allowed a number of people to sit close but actually create a sense of distance, allowing people to work in their own environment. The space also has multifunctional uses and can host events, allowing the tiered concept to provide a stage and seating. Much like retail, workspace needs to have the ability to flex and adapt to its user.

This year Designer Virgil Abloh opened his first multipurpose space in the heart of Miami’s Design District for his Off-White brand. Abloh with an architect designed the space himself, his approach was not to dedicate himself to x square meterage purely committed to retail space. Instead, together they designed a space that can adapt whenever it needs to. Knowing his consumers, Abloh wanted to provide a place for monetary transactions for products but more importantly to him, is the ability to create an environment where his customers can have a sense of fulfilment and engagement with his brand., in whatever form he wants. We love it!

By defining your creative strategy from the outset and investing in a concept that can flex, adapt, and modify easily. This will result in brands that are able to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape and create new retail experiences more frequently. Not only that, but brand spaces can also become more sustainable and live for longer. We aim to create concepts that are flexible, allowing them to evolve customer experiences throughout the day, week month or year. This is about providing brands with the ability to build deeper brand connections by continuously evolving, keeping things fresh and connecting with their consumers in a meaningful way. A delivery of any store concept should be only the beginning, the starting point of its journey and platform for the future of a brand.

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