4 Disruptive & Promising Concept Stores

north-face-concept_730x280.jpgIf you’ve been following any retail themed news site or blog as of late, you’re probably aware that in-store shopping isn’t going anywhere. Both Millennials and Generation Z prefer it. Mall foot traffic has experienced a resurgence. And Best Buy, once written off as little more than an Amazon showroom, has thrived.

While there are lots of factors at play here—various flavors of in-store analytics, IoT, assortment optimization, and the like—the role of concept stores cannot be ignored. Designed to create an immersive and personalized experience for consumers more enticing than the e-commerce alternative, these new takes on brick-and-mortar shops have started cropping up across the world. 

Of course, not all of them have been a resounding success. Mattel comes to mind. Their Shanghai Barbie concept stored failed.  So too did Kroger, with their attempts to reinvent the grocery store experience falling flat with consumers.

If done right, concept stores can do wonders for retailers. We look at the best of the past year.

North Face

The North Face has long since dominated the “outdoor explorer” market, but recently, the company began making forays into everyday streetwear.  And so, rather than just introduce more casual options alongside their outdoor clothing in sporting goods stores across the country, they launched an entirely new concept store in San Francisco.

North Face images courtesy of prnewswire.com

The store is aimed at the “city explorer,” and will focus exclusively on the label’s premium streetwear line. It will feature exclusive items and designs unavailable anywhere else.


After years of being battered by competitors like Target, WalMart, and Amazon, and withstanding numerous store closings, the retailer is attempting to reinvent itself with a new concept store.

Retail Analysis offers a complete breakdown of the reskinned Kmart, but some highlights include:

  • Redesigned aisles and more open space
  • “Shoparazzi” who will do the shopping for customers
  • Expanded fresh food offering
  • Emphasis on value, in particular $1 offering

Whether or not the concept will be enough to reverse Kmart’s fortunes, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.


Ok, so this a little bit of cheating: lululemon’s concept stores have been a thing for a year or two, but they recently announced plans to open their fourth location in Philadelphia, so it deserves mentioning.  After all, they’re probably one of the most successful concept retailers out there.

lulu-lab.jpgCourtesy of businessinsider.com

According to them, “The Fishtown [Philadelphia neighborhood] Local will be a community hub and retail space of lululemon’s technical clothes for yoga, running and working out.” People can expect “relevant, vibrant events and programming that will be authentic to Fishtown,” focusing on sweat, personal development and relationships.”

So yes, they’re really nailing the whole personalization thing.

Fabled by Marie Claire

Online grocer Ocado and women’s magazine Marie Claire joined forces with design consultancy firm Gpstudio to launch the concept store Fabled by Marie Claire in London. 

The store is strikingly futuristic-looking (seriously, check out the photos in Retail Gazette), complete with touchscreens where customers can learn about brands and specific products, separate testing areas for fragrances, skincare, and makeup, and a rotating selection of fashionable items curated by the Marie Claire editorial staff. 

Courtesy of retailgazette.co.uk

But what makes Fabled by Marie Claire so unique is its attempt to blur the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce. 

“With the design we wanted to combine the ease and convenience of researching and shopping online with the comfort and delight of shopping in store. We eliminated many traditional aspects of big retail and beauty stores and used an integrated a mobile payment system whereby the Fabled team handle transactions on iPads, alongside dedicated till points, giving the customer more options in terms of how and when they pay,” said Gpstudio founding partner Gregor Jackson.

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Topics: retail trends, in-store assortment, concept stores

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