Future Pharmacy

Future of Pharmacy: The Why & How of the Next Evolution

Future of Pharmacy: The Why & How of the Next Evolution 1440 428 ASG

It’s time to rethink the traditional pharmacy, from its purpose to its experience.

This wouldn’t be the first evolution. You would be hard-pressed to find a pharmacy with a soda fountain today like you could in the ’50s, and just a few short years ago, leading pharmacy brands like CVS decided it was finally time to stop selling tobacco. Why? Because the meaning of health has evolved and continues to evolve, it’s time for the pharmacy to change again along with it. The future of pharmacy is fueled by a set of needs, some new, some that have been slowly burning in the minds of consumers and healthcare professionals, but all important.

The timing couldn’t be more appropriate, as many pharmacies struggle with declining reimbursements, poor medication adherence, increasing online competition, and demands from health-conscious individuals looking to do more than treat symptoms.

A more complex definition of health means that for pharmacies to be the face of neighborhood healthcare, they’ll need to reimagine their role and the experience they provide.

Mental Health Crisis: A Second Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic changed lives dramatically. Health issues, economic hardships, fear, and stress ensued, and it quickly became obvious that the virus wasn’t the only health concern many were grappling with as they navigated uncertain times.

Mental health professionals began posing the possibility that a second pandemic was underway—one that would expose the lack of resources available for people struggling with their mental health.

In 2021, CVS Health launched in-store counseling, which opened in locations where consumers were unable to access and afford private therapy. Resembling traditional doctor’s offices, therapists’ private offices are located inside CVS Minute Clinics, providing reassurance that patients are receiving high-quality care.

Other pharmacies like Rite Aid and Walmart began offering affordable mental health support options as well, including counseling services with licensed behavioral health clinicians to help patients cope with anxiety, stress, and depression.

Nearly 90% of all U.S. residents live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, according to the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. By offering critical mental health services, more pharmacies can close significant gaps in care left in the pandemic’s wake.

Consumers Want a Holistic Experience

The wellness economy is worth nearly $450 billion in the United States alone and is growing more than 5% each year. At the same time, the U.S. pharmacy market is projected to grow to more than $861 billion by 2028. There are remarkable opportunities for pharmacies to expand their services as more shoppers are seeking holistic experiences that offer well-being strategies.

According to global mall group Westfield, 78% of shoppers want in-store health experiences. That’s up 20% from 2019. Rather than simply a place to fill prescriptions, evolving pharmacies need to create clinics that offer holistic services within their retail locations.

Walk into The Organic Pharmacy’s sleek U.K. store, and you’ll find a concept that embodies some of the latest trends in holistic wellness, from skincare to bioenergetic scans. Enter one of the retailer’s consultation pods to learn more about how these three-minute scans can detect health conditions like infections, vitamin deficiencies, hormone imbalances, or food intolerances—then shop for your specific needs.

Pharmacy As a Nutritional Space

Pharmacies are a highly competitive business. Surviving generation after generation has meant evolving to meet customers’ needs and refocusing their brands to better reflect what customers want.

Today, it’s still common to walk into nearly any pharmacy and see aisles upon aisles of candy, salty snacks, and sugary drinks. Yet future pharmacies will no longer claim to be focused on health while creating an environment that encourages unhealthy choices. By taking it a step further and offering consultations on vitamins and wellness products, pharmacies can be the new one-stop shop for wellness.

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness, an independent pharmacy in Portland, Maine, does much more than fill prescriptions—it stocks nutritional products from more than 150 vendors. Five wellness specialists research and select vitamins and supplements for customers, many of whom only visit the pharmacy destination for its wellness expertise.

Modern consumers are paying more attention to their diets than ever. Nielsen reports that 60% of Americans use diet to manage their chronic health conditions. With an estimated 133 million Americans suffering from at least one chronic illness, there is value in bringing nutritional intelligence into the pharmacy.

Several major pharmacy brands like CVS have recalibrated their food focus by expanding their healthy food and snack options. Yet still, only 25% of checkout space at the national retailer is now occupied by healthy items rather than sweets. Is it enough that you can now access healthy whole foods at some local convenient stores?

At Belgian pharmacy Van Dijck, customers can enjoy a refreshment station that offers fresh fruit-infused water, while Harpell Pharmacies in New York City offer cold-pressed juices that arrive at customers’ doorsteps for at-home cleanses.

An Aesthetic Facelift: From Cold to Inviting

It’s a classic look: Draining fluorescent lights, white epoxy floors, rows of products, and a fixed pharmacy window often in the back (so you must walk through rows of products to reach your destination). It’s the typical not-so-appealing look of today’s pharmacies, and it quite honestly feels like the place to be sick, not the place to get and stay healthy.

Yet some fresh-on-the-scene brands see brick-and-mortar as a blank slate—an opportunity to create a calm and relaxing setting that considers omnichannel retail. A 1,900-square-foot space in Brooklyn is one of the latest examples of pharmacies challenging the usual uninviting aesthetic. U.S. prescription app Medly opened its first brick-and-mortar store with the goal of enticing customers to a relaxing setting where calm aqua-blue interiors and minimalist display shelving set an inviting tone.

A pharmacy’s appearance matters more than many think. A study published by the Royal Society of Public Health in England found that the “architecture of pharmacies,” or how pharmacy spaces are designed, can impact how users participate in community-based pharmacy health services.

The study concluded that for pharmacies to optimize how pharmacy health services are delivered and experienced, spaces should be engaging and inclusive.

Those findings aren’t necessarily unique to pharmacies versus other healthcare settings. Researchers who have examined the impact of salutogenic architecture, or how an environment supports the healing process, have found that space design can improve health outcomes. For example, one study found that lighting, sounds, and the comfort of seating areas can all impact a patient’s mental well-being.

A pharmacy’s environment reflects the type of relationship it hopes to foster with patients. The appearance reinforces a consistent state of mind that a pharmacy is projecting, which then fosters brand loyalty. A customer’s experience will almost always answer the question: Which pharmacy are you more likely to go back to time and time again?

Pharmacy Digital Transformation

While more patients have embraced online pharmacies (there are currently more than 30,000 active online pharmacies), brick-and-mortar shops have also benefited by embracing digital tools.

A research study found that the number of online pharmacy users is expected to reach 1 billion across the globe by 2027. While experts point to the pandemic as the leading cause for the growth of e-pharmacies, the pandemic also showed the need for brick-and-mortar locations to improve services.

Many have turned to digital tools to help them reach more customers and improve workplace efficiencies. By leveraging new technologies, pharmacies have incorporated solutions like online shopping and delivery, secure messaging, e-commerce storefronts, and remote consultations.

Especially among the elderly population, remote consultations offer a viable option for those who have mobility issues. They can be an important tool for healthcare systems as a whole as well. In Minnesota, Fairview Health Services offers 24-hour remote pharmacy services to hospital pharmacy programs. When on-staff hospital pharmacists go home, Fairview Health Services steps in and offers patients, physicians, and nurses access to a pharmacist.

The program benefits all parties involved. Pharmacies can develop long-lasting relationships with healthcare systems. Hospitals can save costs on pharmacy staffing and reduce preventable medication errors. Patients can receive timely care and a better patient experience.

Digital transformations have also allowed pharmacists to connect with more patients. That’s important, considering pharmacists are often the first point of contact for patients. The National Institutes of Health reports that pharmacists see patients an average of up to 10 times more per year than they see their primary care physicians.

One digital tool that has become popular in underserved communities is telepharmacy. Telepharmacies operate like traditional pharmacies, except that a pharmacist reviews prescriptions and counsels patients from a remote location using cloud-based software. This technology has allowed pharmacists to expand their reach while providing high-quality healthcare.

While a digital boom has transformed the pharmacy industry by opening the door to more accessible care, brick-and-mortar pharmacies have continued to serve as the front door to care. It’s likely that we see both thrive and coexist.

Changing the Rules and Building Healthier Lives

“If you can’t win the game, change the rules.”

As the pharmacy industry continues to evolve and faces new challenges, both small, independent apothecaries and large pharmacy brands must buy into and support a larger view of health and position themselves as experts on health-related matters, as well as customer service.

Building patient loyalty isn’t about solely creating a place where customers go to pick up their medications. It’s about making a commitment and building relationships to help patients lead healthier lives.

The Art of Sensory Experiences in Retail + Restaurant

The Art of Sensory Experiences in Retail + Restaurant 1440 428 ASG

We’ve all experienced it – that moment when a single whiff of a scent of cinnamon takes us back to grandma’s kitchen during the holidays. The smell of buttered popcorn and we are taken back to the movie theater in our minds. A song whose first few notes make us remember a special moment with a significant other. It’s no wonder that restaurants and retailers are trying to find ways to capture the art of sensory experiences so that they linger on in our minds a little longer.

Incorporating the senses into shopping and dining experiences does more than just create a unique experience for the customer. By ensuring that all the senses are engaged, restaurants and retailers have an opportunity to make an indelible impression on customers and connect their brand positively to everyone.

Creating a sensory-driven experience in retail is a thoughtful, deliberate process that must incorporate brand story, the location, and the clientele. Lily Pulitzer’s Palm Beach store was designed with the senses in mind, with luxurious textures and colors, indoor and outdoor areas where customers can feel a breeze and smell the ocean air, and even an orange juice bar to energize the taste buds.

“Sensory marketing can turn a one-time customer into a loyal repeat brand advocate. By appealing to all five senses, retailers can solidify their store as a must-visit place for shoppers by creating an unforgettable experience that just can’t be replicated online. If you want to give your brick-and-mortar store an edge over e-commerce competitors, follow these tips for incorporating sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound into your retail experience.” – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

How to Incorporate the Senses

While not every interaction with a customer can deliver a sensory experience that includes all five senses, it’s important to consider all five and determine which senses can best help enhance your brand story.

The visual experience is, in most cases, the first sensory experience a customer will have with a brand, and it can start well before they ever visit a store. The logo, website, social media, online menus (food photography, clear descriptions of menu items), and color schemes all play into the visual experience. Once they step inside a store or restaurant, the visual experience continues. Lighting, menu boards, digital signs, and displays all play a part, but so does simple order and cleanliness. Neil Saunders pokes fun regularly at Macy’s for their inability to deliver a visual experience that delights customers, which is contrary to their knowledge that the visual experience is the first one with the brand they’ll have.

The music played in a restaurant or store sets the mood, so the music must match the brand and the intended experience. It’s more than just the style of music and volume, though. Especially in restaurants, the sounds from the kitchen –clanging pots and pans, the voices of employees, even the sizzling sound of fajitas being delivered to a nearby table – can all enhance or detract from the experience.

Smell as a sensory experience needs little explanation for a restaurant setting, but how does smell play into other retail settings? Can a brand have a signature smell? While it’s necessary to find a balance between overwhelming the senses and creating a subtle sensory experience, smell may be the most powerful sense when it comes to sensory marketing.

“[The] brain regions that juggle smells, memories and emotions are very much intertwined. In fact, the way that your sense of smell is wired to your brain is unique among your senses.” – Live Science

Touch is an underrated sense, in both retail and restaurant. But everything about touch contributes to the customer’s sensory experience. From having the opportunity to feel the fabric of an item of clothing before making a purchase to the weight of the silverware used in a restaurant can impact the overall experience.

Fast Casual points out that not all touch is physical and that personal space is a part of the overall sensory experience of touch. “A person’s figurative sense of touch may also be impacted by their perception of personal space. For example, if you’re sitting alone at a small table near a wall, you would probably feel cozy and secure. However, if that same table were positioned in the middle of the room surrounded by the hustle of others, they would now likely feel exposed and possibly invaded.”

While taste is a logical piece of the sensory experience in a restaurant, as with the orange juice bar at Lilly Pulitzer, retailers can also benefit from signature tastes. From offering coffee and tea to shoppers to having a signature cinnamon bun that has become a celebratory event, retailers can use the power of taste to connect with customers more effectively. Because taste and smell are intricately linked, associating the two can be even more powerful.

“Modern chefs are recognising that flavour is more potent than taste as it engages all the senses and can evoke nostalgia, reminiscence, and emotion. Using audio and other sensory influences enables them to enhance the flavours of their dishes and make them more memorable. Curious, up-for-anything diners are just as hungry for enhanced dining experiences that play on all their senses. What’s more, they are willing to pay a pretty penny for them.” – CordonBleu

Grocery Stores Embrace Sensory Marketing

Grocery stores are highly competitive. According to Vericast, the average grocery shopper visits four different retailers for groceries. So how can a grocer keep shoppers coming back through multisensory experiences?

Albertsons is going straight for smell and will begin piping in the smell of cheesecake at Philadelphia cream cheese displays in certain stores. But Vericast points to visual marketing in the form of the printed circular as the most essential sensory marketing for grocers. The circular is to grocers what the toy catalog is to retailers during the holidays– something that defies the odds of the digital world we live in and allows people to see and touch something physical as they plan their shopping.

C-Stores Deliver Multisensory Experiences

While not every c-store can be an Omega Mart, convenience stores are upleveling by delivering a better, more personalized experience to customers. A great example is Mapco, who have transformed the idea of a convenience store from being an in-and-out stop to a place where customers can linger.

Multisensory Experiences Are the Future

Engaging the senses creates an enhanced experience, but it also increases sales. Consider these statistics from Mood Media:

  • 75% of shoppers say they are more likely to stay longer in a place of business if they’re enjoying the music, visuals, and scent.
  • 90% of shoppers say they’re more likely to revisit a brick & mortar business if the music, visuals, and scent create an enjoyable atmosphere.
  • 43% of consumers around the globe have been inspired to make a purchase based on digital signage content they viewed while in-store.

Engaging in more than one sense amplifies each of the senses involved. So a visual experience in a retail location that is accompanied by both sound (music) and a tactile experience, or a restaurant experience in which smell, taste, and sound are combined to create powerful and memorable moment can be much more powerful than focusing on an individual sense.

Consumers are looking for ways to make the time and money they spend more meaningful and memorable. Engaging all their senses from the moment they begin engaging with a brand can lock in loyalty and increasing revenues.

Adaptive Fashion

Reimagining Adaptive Fashion

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Many of us have or know someone who has experienced health challenges that make everyday activities like self-care, cleaning and dressing difficult. Brands like OXO Good Grips found their niche by overhauling the kitchen utensil drawer to make it easier for everyone to perform essential activities. It’s time we overhaul fashion to meet the needs—and styles—of people with adaptive needs. Not only is this an incredible opportunity to help people maintain dignity and independence, but it’s a relatively untapped market, rife with opportunity for apparel brands.

Reimagining Adaptive Fashion

In the past, adaptive fashion was difficult to find, and there was really nothing fashionable about it. These days, greater access to adaptive fashion recognizes the wide variety of consumers with different adaptive needs who want to dress stylishly. But there is a big opportunity to more fully embrace adaptive fashion, as the industry will be worth an estimated  $400 billion by 2026.

Adaptive Fashion

Adaptive Fashion, Defined

Adaptive fashion is clothing that is designed for the unique needs of people with disabilities that is also fun, stylish, and trendy. Adaptive needs are as varied as are the people who need them. Some adaptive clothing is designed to foster independence, with magnets, Velcro, and zipper closures rather than laces and buttons. Some adaptive clothing has disguised openings that allow the wearer access to tubes and monitors, and some are designed to work with prosthetics. Stylish and fashionable designs have long been difficult to find, but a number of popular brands are embracing adaptive fashion.

However, as journalist Gus Alexiou explains, there is still a long way to go. “For a start, a paucity of consumer choice and competition inevitably drives prices up and makes products harder to source. Beyond this, personal style and identity is just as important for the disabled consumer as anyone else – therefore, limiting the pool of products available to them only narrows and curtails such choices.”

Brands Breaking into Adaptive Fashion

As the Internet revealed Influencers sharing DIY adaptive fashion hacks and throngs of people with disabilities showed interest in trendy clothing that could fit their needs, retailers answered the call.

Target has introduced an entire line of adaptive clothing for kids. They have designs for kids with autism and sensory issues who need clothing without itchy tags and scratchy seams; clothing with abdominal access for kids with stomas; and clothing with side openings that are easier to put on for kids who use wheelchairs. Tommy Hilfiger has an entire line of adaptive fashion featuring clothing with easy closures, styles designed to be worn with prosthetics, and for those needing abdominal access. Zappos is now carrying an entire line of BILLY Footwear, with easy to use slip on shoes with side zippers

Adaptive Fashion


At the forefront of bringing awareness to the need for adaptive fashion is the Runway of Dreams Foundation, whose mission is to “empower people with disabilities with confidence and self-expression through fashion and beauty inclusion.” The foundation has garnered support from a range of brands and retailers, from Neiman Marcus to Kohl’s. Bringing so much visibility to the growing need for adaptive fashion is having an impact. Their New York fashion show, #RethinktheRunway, brought adaptive clothing – and their models – into the spotlight.

Opportunity in Adaptive Fashion

The future of adaptive fashion is exciting, not just for big brands but for creating entrepreneurship opportunities. Journalist Jonathan Kaufmann writes for Forbes, “With the evolution of the economic realities and the social vision of adaptive fashion continuing to evolve across the catwalks of the world and the ubiquity of social media platforms, there is a question that arises what is the collective impact of adaptive fashion on the disability community? It can be argued that the rise in adaptive fashion is a recipe to look at issues such as social mobility. The growth of the space is not only confined to the larger brands but is a cradle of entrepreneurship where creatives with disabilities can define their paths and help shape a future economic reality.”

What’s Next in Adaptive Fashion?

Not only will we see a proliferation of brands entering the industry, but we expect to see new designers gain acclaim for their inclusive designs. We are keeping our eyes on these brands:

IZ founder Izzy Camilleri launched a line of clothing after being asked to create private clothing for an individual in a wheelchair. She now has an entire line, offering a wide variety of adaptive clothing “to offer timeless adaptive clothing to as many people as possible so that they live in comfort, style, dignity and empowerment.”

AUF AUGENHOEHE founder Sema Gedik’s cousin Funda, is a little person. Through her she discovered how difficult it can be to buy clothes for little people that want to participate in fashion and lifestyle and decided to launch a brand dedicated to creating fashionable choices.

Social Surge designs adaptive clothing that is ethically sourced and sustainably made. Because the founder, Meredith Aleigha Wells, is nonbinary, they chose to incorporate universal design into their fashion – the “first-ever universal fashion line that doesn’t segment consumers by their appearance or abilities.”

Liberare’s tagline is “adaptive can be sexy, too.” Founder Emma Butler recognized a gap in the industry and partnered with designer Maddie Highland to create lingerie that was more than just functional.

The Alternative Limb Project seeks to challenge the idea that prosthetic limbs should be made flesh tone to blend in rather than be a fashion statement unto themselves.

Adaptive Fashion

The Importance of Adaptive Fashion

Clothes do more than protect our bodies. They help us express ourselves. For kids, it can be about fitting in. For everyone, it can mean a huge difference in confidence. Kieran Kern says it best: “The importance of having adaptive clothing is something able-bodied people don’t really understand,” Kern says. “It’s not just about putting on a shirt. People start to see you as a person with a sense of style, and it sparks a conversation other than, ‘Oh, hey, I like your wheelchair.’ Accessible style is like this gateway—to acceptance, socialization, easier employment. Everything.”

The Hidden Cost of Returns

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We have all done it. Find the perfect item, order a size up or down, maybe a different color, and keep the one we want…right?  Well, we’re paying for it.  

From clothing to cameras, mattresses to mowers, the retail industry is inundated with returns—over $100 billion of them each year. It’s a conundrum. Consumers buy with the guarantee of free returns, and they return about 20% of all purchases. 

But those free returns aren’t free.

They cost retailers enough to often cut into profitability. So, while retailers offer free returns to remain competitive, the hidden costs are adding up.   Those “hidden” costs then are added back to the cost of the product raising prices.

“Shoppers are making buying decisions based on retailers’ return policies, according to a new consumer research study. Free returns are important to shoppers when making an online purchase, and a majority of consumers check a retailer’s return policy before deciding to buy.” – Forbes

How can retailers manage these hidden costs without losing loyal customers? And what are the hidden costs that retailers need to better manage?  

When it comes to the cost of returns, it’s more than just the cost of the refund for the returned merchandise that retailers are absorbing. Other hidden costs must be factored in that impact both the retailer and the consumer.

Shipping Cost

It’s more than just the cost of shipping that costs the retailer; it’s the labor involved in managing the entire carrier network. Most retailers offer a variety of shipping options for returns, including specified drop-off points that don’t require the customer to even package the return. 

Flex Logistics points out that, “the transport costs not only include the transport from the collection point to the warehouse, but also the trips to and from the repair center (if necessary) and the movements to recycle, reuse or dispose of the shipment’s original packaging.”

Retailers must determine the value of the return to determine if it’s worth the cost of shipping it back. Some items (seasonal, low-margin items, and items that can’t be resold) cost more to return than to have the customer keep or dispose of them. For items that can be returned, a third-party logistics partner can help manage and control costs.

“For low-retail-price-point, low-margin merchandise, and many food/perishable product companies, many companies find it is cheaper or feasible to tell the customer to keep the product than to take the product back as a return. Also, consider the customer’s time, frustration, and the shipping cost as well as your center’s return processing expenses.” F. Curtis Barry & Company

Customer Service

The labor spent on customer service teams responding to complaints and issuing return authorizations adds to the profit loss. These costs are exacerbated when customers are forced to follow up multiple times for a refund due to lost merchandise, poor inventory management, or slow response times. Customer service costs are increased when the service team has to manually review return policies on a customer-by-customer basis, chase down returns by coordinating with the shippers and manage refunds. 

Retailers can start to reduce costs by automating the returns process. If the retailer’s policy is to allow returns, then the more of that process that can be automated, the better. Retailers use everything from AI and automated return systems that allow the customer to use a QR code to drop off an item at a specified location without having to contact customer service, which reduces the cost of after-purchase customer service. 

It’s a tricky balance because how the return is handled can often determine whether the customer returns.

Warehousing & Refurbishing

The cost of storage is high but having to receive returned merchandise can add significantly to that cost. Leasing space, employing people to manage deliveries, ascertaining the product’s condition, and potentially refurbishing the product for resale all add costs that eat directly into profitability.

Technology is a critical factor in reducing return costs. It provides visibility throughout the entire return process, from managing refunds to collating information about what products are returned and why, so that retailers can make decisions about merchandise. Some technology can even help retailers manage returned inventory to fill backorders and new orders. Third-party partners can help manage the overall returns program to reduce costs further.

Retailers Aren’t the Only Ones Bearing the Hidden Costs of Returns

The $100 billion in retail returns annually isn’t just costing retailers. There’s a sustainability factor at play, too, when calculating the impact of more trucks on the road and more merchandise heading to landfills. While brick and mortar receive fewer returns and can restock more of the items that come back, it is still costly. But online orders result in an approximately 25% return rate, and that’s taking a heavy toll—not just on profitability, but also on the environment. 

“All of that unwanted stuff piles up. Some of it will be diverted into a global shadow industry of bulk resellers, some of it will be stripped for valuable parts, and some of it will go directly into an incinerator or a landfill …. We can dispense now with a common myth of modern shopping: The stuff you return probably isn’t restocked and sent back out to another hopeful owner.” – Atlantic 

An estimated 6 billion pounds of landfill waste and 16 million metric tons of carbon emissions are generated by returns each year, according to Tobin Moore, CEO of returns solution provider Optoro, in an interview with CNBC

CEO of returns solution provider Optoro, in an interview with CNBC.

As more brick-and-mortar retailers offer online shopping and free returns and shipping to compete with their ecommerce competitors, their return costs are quickly rising. “While traditional retailers have been retooling and upgrading to capture more online sales, back in the shipping department an unintended consequence has been piling up—mountains of returns. And worse.” – Forbes

Maximizing Efficiency in Returns Management

If the customer’s needs aren’t met, the biggest loss to retailers is the return customer. Customers who must jump through hoops to complete returns or who wait a long time for a refund get frustrated. The next time the customer chooses to shop, they will likely choose a competitor. 

The first step in making retail return management more efficient and cost-effective is to employ data analytics to understand what is being returned, how often, and for what reasons. 

A return policy should be designed with the customer experience at the forefront. Retailers don’t accept returns for any other reason than to improve customer service, increase customer retention, and amplify customer loyalty. To make the return management program as effective and cost-efficient (and sustainable) as possible, retailers will need to invest heavily in technology that can automate and track returns, minimize the labor impact, and maximize the repurposing and valuation of the merchandise being returned. 

There are no perfect solutions; customers want to have the option to return what they buy, whether they’re in the store or on the website. If the retailer doesn’t offer that option, they may simply lose the sale. So, the key must be to ensure that return management is as much a priority as every other component of your retail strategy.

Retailers are Banking on Buy Now Pay Later

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Today’s shoppers are used to recent innovations like BOPIS and curbside pickup for delivering products, and they want more payment options at the register too. Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) solutions, also known as Shop Now Pay Later, caught fire last year, making up nearly 2.5% of the global eCommerce market, and the payment method is now catching on in U.S. brick-and-mortar stores.

Many retailers are now turning to BNPL platforms, such as Afterpay, Klarna, and Affirm, to create an alternative payment option for the in-store shopper. Retailers are using BNPL as a payment differentiator to diversify their target market and lure Millennial and Gen Z shoppers who love the contactless nature and budgeting muscle BNPL options provide.

BNPL 101

As inflation remains high, consumers are looking for ways to fulfill their holiday lists while overcoming economic challenges. Enter “Buy Now, Pay Later,” the modern-day reverse layaway option that allows buyers to get the product they need now, but pay for it later in interest-free installments. In most cases, a consumer makes an upfront payment or initial payment. The balance is then spread out over a predetermined number of payments. There are usually no added fees for the consumer unless the borrower misses a payment.

Are consumers using it? In a big way, particularly Millennial and Gen Z shoppers, whom retailers want to woo. With their general distrust in credit cards, many Gen Z shoppers like being able to budget for their goods post-purchase, without the plastic or a hard pull of their credit. That helps explain why BNPL loans grew more than 10 times from 2019 to 2021 and they have only been increasing.

A recent survey found that 48% of Gen Z respondents said they planned to use BNPL to pay for gifts this holiday season, other generations of consumers aren’t far behind. Nearly 47% of millennial respondents and 40% of Gen X respondents said that they plan to use BNPL to finance some of their holiday gifts this year. Only Baby Boomers bucked the trend, with 14% of respondents stating they intended to use BNPL for holiday spending.

Experience Driven Loyalty

In survey after survey, consumers consistently put “experience” at the top of their wants list when it comes to retail. And as retailers continue to refine their shopping experiences, they must empower customers to pay how much and when they choose. It’s the type of satisfaction that can drive repeat business.

Although the U.S. has been somewhat slower to adopt BNPL than retailers in Australia and Asia, it has certainly come in with a boom. In a recent podcast, Karen Strack, Senior Vice President of Transformation at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, explained how retailers can use BNPL as a positive differentiated experience that brings shoppers back.

“The powerful appeal of such payment configurations cannot be overlooked when it comes to reimagining the in-store shopping experience to provide consumers a better overall experience,” said Strack.

World Pay Head of Vertical Growth, Maria Prados, said in the podcast that the loyalty engendered by BNPL platforms was unexpected. “Buy-now-pay-later creates a lot of loyalty and community, which is very unusual for a payment method,” said Prados. “But 30% of shoppers won’t buy unless there’s a BNPL option. It’s the fastest-growing method globally.”

Strack also shared how BNPL can help consumers through the product lineup journey. “One of the observations that we have had is that a lot of the shoppers are graduating through that process. So, especially with a luxury client, they might actually just start with buying an accessory or a scarf. And then they start to really understand the value in that [they] can control their budget, and they’re graduating to handbags and higher-end prices. And from a retailer perspective, that’s creating lifetime value in your shopper. It’s a really big bonus.”

The Downsides

One of the biggest disadvantages for merchants is the fees associated with working with BNPL platforms. Some have fees as little as 1.5%, making this a great option for reducing credit card fees that they pay, which can be as much as 3.5%.

Another consideration is what the future holds for the BNPL industry. With a substantial increase in consumers taking advantage of this service, it has caught the eye of financial services regulators who are concerned about potential risks.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warns that borrowers face inconsistent consumer protections—protections that are standard elsewhere in the marketplace. As more BNPL providers are creating digital profiles of users, the CFPB is also warning consumers about the risks that come with monetizing consumer data, including the threat to consumers’ privacy. As a merchant, it’s important that you work with credible third-party providers. It’s also likely you will need to stay on top of industry regulations to ensure you don’t play a role in any consumer protection violations.

Give Shoppers Control

Sure, the appeal of BNPL is the ability to spread out costs over time. But what BNPL really offers consumers is control, something consumers have been craving since the pandemic. Prados told Business of Fashion that the pandemic spurred retail five years ahead in innovation in a matter of months.

“While it will be painful for the industry and economy at scale, the situation allows for so much necessary innovation,” she said. “Payments can be an afterthought, but we are talking about the very end of your conversion funnel — it could not be more key.”

What Happened to Retail Storytelling?

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“Stories are not indicators; they ARE the organization.”
– David Boje, storytelling researcher

Automation? Frictionless? Impersonal.

It seems that new tech being used in the retail industry removes the human touch from the shopping experience. Why get in a checkout line when you can just scan your items as you put them in the cart? Why wander through the store when you can place the order from an app and pick it up from a locker? Why even bother going at all when you can just order it online and have it delivered?

Certainly, transactional retail has its place. There’s no need to go to the store to order toilet paper or mouthwash. But for most shopping and dining experiences, customers crave personal interaction; it’s why they come in rather than order online in the first place.

“Emotion is what really drives the purchasing behaviors, and also, decision-making in general.” -Logan Chierotti, CEO of Physician’s Choice

Frictionless, Not Sanitized

When did we decide that the retail journey should be so linear? Perhaps as a result of covid, the retail journey now comes with fewer human interactions, but does it have to be so cold and despondent? Sure, customers want a “frictionless” experience in terms of complications, delays, and frustrations. But do they want the shopping experience to be devoid of human contact so there is no emotional involvement in the process at all?

We don’t think so, and science says it’s not possible. Yet retailers from restaurants to department stores are rushing to make their operations more frictionless: “Here’s your purchase; we already have your money—don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

An exception is IKEA, but they’ve created their own version of impersonal—a retail cattle drive through a labyrinth. The Goal: Get the herd from Point A to Point B without turning around. Keep them moving forward until they’re dumped out into an open pasture (warehouse) and then funneled through the corral (checkout line).

So how do retailers create more human connections in the retail journey? Through retail storytelling.

“Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution—more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” -Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

What Is Retail Storytelling?

Retail storytelling is the use of narratives to create an emotional connection between a brand and its customers. While retail storytelling can be educational and entertaining, the goal is to help create a lasting and memorable impression of the brand on the customer.

Human brains connect to the emotions behind the stories, creating emotional connections between the customer and the brand that help customers build trust and loyalty.

“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.” – from Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow’s book The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You

Why Is Retail Storytelling Important?

The retail industry is incredibly competitive, and shoppers are fickle. They follow budgets more than brands, and convenience more than company names. They research before they shop. They need a reason to connect with your company and brand and they are looking for brands that are aligned morally and socially with their own beliefs and desires. Retail storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to connect with consumers in meaningful, impactful, and most of all, memorable ways.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe.” -Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why

How to Make Retail Storytelling Work for Brands

For brands, the key to storytelling that connects with their target audience is about leveraging technology innovatively. Brands should use data–about their customers, sales, and products–to help inform the stories they tell.  Ad agency FIG Founder Mark Figliulo explains, “I think a new approach to data could unlock a new era of creativity. The reason is simple; when clients understand and can track what kind of stories work, they will be begging for very simple messages and very surprising executions because that’s what the data shows.”

“Every business has a story to tell.” -Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep your Customers

Brands Killing It with Retail Storytelling

Retail storytelling isn’t new. Coca-Cola was teaching us to sing in perfect harmony in the early ‘70s. They were selling Coca-Cola as an avenue to friendship, world peace, harmony, and love. AT&T did it in the ‘80s by sharing the story of connection during the holidays. And who didn’t shed a tear over the countless Hallmark commercials in the ‘90s?

The delivery method has changed, but the messaging remains. Brands need to connect—emotionally—with their customers. Here are five brands getting it right in today’s times:

Nike – Using words, images, and people to tell their story, the Nike brand connects (again) to the idea of equality with their, “Until We All Win” equality” campaign. “Nike believes in the power of sport to unite and inspire people to take action in their communities. Equality isn’t a game. But achieving it will be our greatest victory. Until we all win.”

Warby Parker – This DTC original disrupted an entire industry and gained a loyal customer base by telling the personal story of their founder, who lost his glasses. “Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: Glasses are too expensive.”

Learn more about storytelling at retail in our DTC guide >

Airbnb – Master storytellers with a compelling founder story, their evolving story centers around inclusion, trust, and experience—and most recently resulted in the CEO acknowledging problems and making changes to the platform because of guest concerns over hidden pricing. They rely heavily on user-generated content, which is featured on their Instagram page.

Land Rover/Range Rover – They help their customers see what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat of one of their vehicles by sharing adventure stories.

Woolrich – One of the featured brands inspiring our team, Woolrich demonstrates their commitment to sustainability in everything they do, including a partnership with 1% for the Planet.

”The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.” -Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder

The Keys to Successful Retail Storytelling

Retail storytelling must be authentic, engaging, and thoughtful. Brands are more likely to connect with honesty and a behind-the-scenes look than with a manufactured story that doesn’t have the ring of truth.

Storytelling should be incorporated into everything a retailer does. Brands should build it into the store design and visual presentations, bake it into the ways the company sources materials, and every employee—from those on the retail floor to the brand leaders in the C-Suite—should understand and tell it. It’s about connection. Stories can create empathy and connection, elicit emotions, and forge connections that build loyalty. What’s the retail story your brand is telling?

Big Brands See Return from Small-Box Formats

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What goes around, comes around—karma, boomerangs, design, and fashion trends. Retail experience is no exception. Small-format shopping has been on the decline since the dawn of big-box shopping, but could we be returning to our old ways?

You may have that one produce manager, cashier, or bagger you say hi to every time you stop at the grocery store. You might chat it up for a quick minute, but it’s hard to catch up when there are 50 people behind you waiting to ring out their thanksgiving turkeys.

Instead, if the store were smaller with multiple locations as opposed to a major central post, employees could give more time and attention to individual guests. The focus could shift from maintaining store operations to connecting with every person. This model allows brands to mold their shopping experiences specific to their neighborhood audiences and make a positive impact to strengthen brand loyalty. In this instance, shoppers no longer feel just like a cog in the machine of a running corporation; they feel like truly valued patrons.

People like to be acknowledged, appreciated, and made to feel special. We’re currently facing a brand renaissance in which consumers expect brands to interact with them personally. Brands represent human qualities, values, beliefs, and actions—all of which are now part of a brand’s messaging, shared with the public alongside their products or services.

Smaller-format stores that prioritize connection with the individual make us feel seen while humanizing the brand. More time to connect meaningfully with guests means more time to authentically sell the brand.

Retail with a Local Lens

Getting consumers to leave their houses these days has become quite the exercise. There better be a good reason to spend extended time at a business, whether it’s a unique offer, sensory engagement, or just a great shopping experience. Nordstrom local offers the typical nordstrom store features, with options for tailoring, alterations, gift packaging, and even a way to give clothing donations. Smaller floor plans and less space to fill allow brands to save money on fixtures and square feet and rather invest in valuable differentiators and experiences.

It might sound like common sense, but smaller stores mean less cost. Brands can use these savings to open more stores in an area, upgrade the finishes and features of a smaller store, or simply bolster the bottom line. Having smaller-format stores allows for the flexibility to enter very specific markets. Smaller locations also give brands a less risky way to enter new markets. Less space and investment keep brands from getting backed into corners, trying to make store models work where they don’t.

Locations specialized for the population fulfill the true mission of any retail business— providing a community with what it needs. Daily life isn’t quite the same in San Diego, CA, as it is in Portsmouth, OH— that’s obvious, and we’re watching our big-box brands evolve their business models and stores to bridge the gap.

In New York, Rent-a-Center has recently opened a small-format store to better serve a dense, urban population. By downsizing, customers in the city now have easier access to the showroom without having to travel out of the city to peruse a massive warehouse. Saving money on square feet, rent-a-center can invest in endless aisle technology for shoppers to browse the entire store selection with help from the in-store associates.

In the United States, Target has been unveiling small-format stores that serve smaller, walkable communities, such as college campuses. These smaller locations consolidate the communities’ shopping habits and needs into a convenient store location without wasting space on unnecessary product that doesn’t resonate with local shoppers.

Data-Driven Local Insights

Smaller stores mean less room for merchandise, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We use countless tools and technology to curate our advertising, sales forecasting, locations, and more, so why don’t we apply revelations from the data we collect to specialize our product offerings? Sure, it might be used from time to time to sort in-store vs. online supply or create a few specially merchandized displays, but what if we truly listen to our consumers at a smaller scale? Trends vary and evolve across communities, so what resonates to one group might fall short for another. Rather than attempting to cater to a large swath of varying personalities and communities, we can use data to truly speak to our local consumer in the store.

Small-format shopping lets companies and store employees have easier control over store details and the ability to make the store their own. Bringing in local culture and personalities gives a human voice and touch to the brand.

Guided or option-based programs for stores to pick and choose branded assets provide structure while adding a customized look to the smaller space. Nike’s new concept, Nike Style, embraces local collections and unique environments to create intriguing customer experiences with different offerings at each store. The boutique-styled stores aim to provide customers with premium experiences over traditional wholesale.

Aesop has even taken the initiative to utilize local materials to imbue its spaces with the culture and history of the area. These stores that marry local culture and history with the brand and products intrigue customers and acknowledge shoppers’ roots.

With big-box stores going small format, shopping at every store has become its own experience. Our big brands are embracing this to encourage education, connection, loyalty, and reinforcement of the brand mission. Creating unique, localized experiences in smaller-format stores opens the door to a brand’s evolution of personality and substance.

How Landlords Can Help Form the Retail Future

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The way we all live, work, and shop is changing. The owners of the spaces in which we do all of that living, working, and shopping contribute to creating the future—with new experiences and spaces that attract new and innovative tenants.

With the retail landscape, culture, technology, and customer expectations in an apparent state of change, it’s time to create the retail future customers want, retailers need, and landlords benefit from. It’s no longer business as usual. How can landlords adopt a growth mindset and change with the tides?

Flexible Lease Terms Help Attract New Tenants

New retailers are coming to the neighborhood, and landlords have a great opportunity to attract them to their spaces. It requires a change in mindset because landlords must rethink lease terms to attract these new and innovative brands.

Right now, landlords can change the nature of their relationships with their tenants by not only demonstrating a willingness to be more flexible with terms but also increasing investments in infrastructure and safety. Landlords will also benefit from supporting the success of their tenants. For example, accommodating retailers with a reduction in lease length in exchange for a percentage of the retailer’s online sales could benefit all involved.

Sure, it involves a shift in thinking for everyone, but this is how we will begin creating the retail future that we want. Here are some of the ways landlords can adapt:

Shorter lease terms. Landlords are enticing tenants to spaces by providing shorter-term leases that include a variety of renewal options.

Contract flexibility. Retailers are skittish coming out of the pandemic experience and need more flexibility in terms of force majeure definitions and lease adjustments based on situations beyond their control.

In addition to offering shorter lease terms, offering certain concessions can help attract tenants, including:
• Rent deferrals
• Sublet allowances
• Rent abatement
• Options for renegotiating lease terms

At the same time, landlords can ensure that they are protecting their own interests by:
• Requiring approval of any sublet
• Adjusting percentage rent to include online sales
• Increasing pass-through costs for climate and safety related updates
• Delineating specific recourse should the tenant fail to pay or abandon the lease

Help Tenants Meet Consumer Expectations and Deliver Better Experiences

Consumers have higher-than-ever expectations of the brands from whom they purchase, and retailers are looking for spaces that support the promises they are making to their customers. Landlords who are open to a changing relationship with their tenants will have the opportunity to help reshape the future of retail to be more resilient and sustainable. To successfully do this, the process must become less adversarial and more open; landlords and tenants must learn to work together, or they all suffer. Landlords can help by:

Offering improved safety and infrastructure. Many landlords are investing in improved HVAC, redesigns to enhance BOPIS, and technology infrastructure to make tenancy more inviting for retailers who are also having to adjust how they serve their clients.

Investing in Sustainability. Retailers whose brands have made promises of sustainability will expect landlords to invest in solar panels and make other necessary changes to their buildings to better meet consumer expectations.

Remaining Spaces

Landlords are redefining the mix of businesses in their spaces by reevaluating how the space is used. For example, some landlords are converting space for retail health clinics, mixed-use spaces, and warehouse space for last-mile delivery.

“One direction for some malls is turning underpopulated sections into ‘digital districts,’ where ecommerce pure plays can try their hand at brick-and-mortar retailing in small-format spaces. The digital natives benefit from a curated location tailored to their audience, while the mall can advertise a slate of cutting-edge concepts.” – Retail Touchpoints

This is also a suitable time to reevaluate what kind of tenants are used to anchor your spaces. We’ve learned that retail spaces that are anchored by necessity shops – grocery, DIY – are more likely to remain solvent than ones anchored by outdated department stores.

The Pop-In Shop

Landlords with the willingness to be open-minded about what kind of shops occupy their spaces are also finding tremendous success with pop-ins, family entertainment, and co-working spaces. For example, empty spaces in neighborhood shopping centers lend themselves well to holiday-themed pop-in stores for Halloween and Christmas. These short-term, high-profit shops can be an ideal way to fill an empty space for the short-term. Start-up retailers are also enticed by the pop-in opportunities that let them test the waters before making a longer-term commitment.


From theaters and arcades to indoor paintball and laser tag, landlords that are welcoming tenants who offer entertainment value that keep consumers coming back have seen enormous success. These retail venues benefit other tenants as well, as once the customer is there, they may also want to shop, eat, and otherwise spend the day nearby.

Co-Working Spaces, Fitness Centers, and Ghost Kitchens

With more people working from home at least part of the time or working for themselves, co-working spaces are an easy way to fill empty retail space. Fitness centers are also becoming a popular way to fill empty spaces that attract consumers. And if the space has a kitchen, soup kitchens, shared kitchen spaces, ghost kitchens, pop-in food services, and other food-based organizations are jumping at the opportunity to leverage available retail spaces for innovative purposes.

Creating the Future of Retail, Together

As retailers grapple with the changing retail landscape, the way forward will require innovation, collaboration, and negotiation. The opportunities that come from all this change can be exciting, but it does make lease negotiations more complex than ever.

“Landlords and tenants must forge viable partnerships. Landlords need stores and associated rents to meet their obligations and, right now, many retailers need financial accommodation to survive. Even so, the tenant has a contractual obligation to pay rent. Once adversarial, the landlord/tenant relationship is becoming more symbiotic.” – Chain Store Age

Both landlords and their retail tenants require appropriate protections and guarantees. However, if both sides approach the negotiations from a collaborative standpoint rather than an adversarial one, both with an eye toward future successes, they can both thrive.

Brands Inspiring Our Team Right Now

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We love working with brands, and we’re constantly inspired by the brand landscape around us. We gathered some team members to share their insight into the brands that are moving them today and why.

Andrew Miller – Woolrich

Established in 1830: Born in Woolrich Pennsylvania- the brand equipped those with a passion for outdoors. “The Original Outdoor Clothing Company” is what they call themselves.

Woolrich has produced high-quality garments for over 190 years. Crafting fine and warm wool is their calling, and their mills have lent a helping hand during major historical moments. Woolrich made a big contribution by supplying socks, blankets, and coats to the US soldiers providing them warmth, comfort and quality during American civil war and WW1.

Being a native from PA and Woolrich within 20 minutes to my hometown – Woolrich was a brand growing up that I was educated on by my family. My great grandparents/ and grandparents always sporting their product. I’m grateful that I was gifted by my grandparents, jackets, socks, shirts growing up for holidays and birthdays which grew my interest and introducing me even closer to the brand. To this day and understanding the Woolrich brand given the history, quality, plus their mission makes a difference even more valuable when you understand what you are wearing. – to this day these are high quality pieces that I enjoy wearing time to time when the elements are right.

American Heritage: Keeping true to their products and quality- mirroring the American dream: wear Woolrich to pursue your goals, regardless of the elements.

Iconic brand elements: The Buffalo Check, whose name was inspired by a herd of buffalo owned by the Woolrich designer who developed its distinctive red and black pattern, has been a symbol for Americana and workwear since its inception, and remains one of Woolrich’s most powerful visual codes from season to season.

Purposeful design: Their Product character is pure, considered, consistent. Woolrich collections embody a design sensibility of stylish durability. They unlock the privilege of a life lived outdoors- in nature and urban environments, and anything in-between.

Brand Mission/ Values:
Woolrich is committed to putting social responsibility at the forefront of everything they do. As a brand and company, they are committed to making a positive impact on the world around us, including by taking a respectful approach to their stakeholder relationships, encouraging environmental awareness, and promoting ethical business practices.

  • Sustainability
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Charities
  • Responsible sourcing
  • Woolrich outdoor foundation
  • Code of ethics

Morecia – Linkedin

When I think of a brand that inspires me, I instantly think of something I use daily. In our society, social media presents us not only as a form of entertainment, but a great way to connect with people and keep up with hot topics and trends. Millions of people can connect with their relatives, lifelong friends, and even business professionals through social media. So, if you’re looking to network, LinkedIn is a great platform! Their mission is simple; to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. I have personally connected with hundreds of people from different professions, from business to even healthcare. LinkedIn also is great for creating a space where professionals can reach out to you with job offers in fields that you may be qualified for. Having this social media presents on LinkedIn gave me the opportunity to meet with several hiring managers and that’s how I landed a job with Asset Strategies Group. I would highly recommend using LinkedIn, it’s a leading social media brand, it’s easily accessible, and you can make great connections with many different people.

Max – Gibson

I’m really digging Gibson Guitars right now. They already pull on my heartstrings as a musician… but they’ve taken their brand to another level. Gibson recently opened up a best-in-class retail experience, the Gibson Garage, loaded with exclusive products, events and even a chance to build your dream guitar. So they’re totally winning the retail thing. Not to mention they’ve really invested in their content production team, and they’re telling these amazing stories that guitar junkies (like myself) salivate over. Like all great brands, there’s a story to know and tell, and I feel that same sentiment with my guitars. I remember sinking every penny I had into my first Gibson, and it’s paid it’s worth back in priceless fashion ever since.

Zach – Homer

Homer is a luxury jewelry and accessory brand founded by Frank Ocean in 2018, starting commercially in 2021. The brand is constantly on the front end of avant-garde design, from catalogs to social media marketing, utilizing unconventional techniques and art to market the line. Homer also has a unique way of launching their collections: each collection is unannounced and launched randomly alongside pop-up stores appearing in big cities for an in-person experience. Homer’s products are very expensive, but having unannounced launches with limited product lends the brand a more curated touch rather than being strictly exclusive. The beautiful design behind the brand, combined with the sporadic launches that tend to be few and far between, give a one-of-a-kind, curated feel to the products provided.

Olivia – Dr. Martens

I’m not really brand loyal to anything and just don’t buy corporate speak, so there are few brands I really “connect” to. But my one ride-or-die brand is Dr. Martens. It’s been that way since I got my first pair when I was 14, which is wild that it was 10 years ago! I fell in love with the brand and the product when I put that first pair on. I love everything about them, honestly—the attitude they bring, authenticity, durability, and how they are still that classic work boot that they started off as. They’re still that same work boot that was designed in the 60s, but they have history and ties with the music industry and counterculture, and they’re inherently cool. The brand always does its own thing and has always been authentic to themselves. They know who they are and take pride in the product and history that they have. And I really connect with that because I have always done my own thing, authentic to myself. Dr. Martens were the first thing that I found that felt like it “fit” my style, that and my winged eyeliner, of course, so the brand is pretty special to me. Dr. Martens is an icon for a reason, and I’m sure it means something different to everyone, but those are just a handful of reasons why I admire it!

Also! It is so true how awful they are to break in! But they are so worth it because they are the most comfortable and dependable pair of shoes you’ll own. 😊 Another fun fact, I still have my first pair, and they are beat to hell, but are still perfect work boots, lol.

Steve Morris Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch – a brand that was built on a cult of exclusivity to a total transformation to a brand that embraces inclusivity. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the brand change dramatically, from its image to its product and, ultimately, the store experience. That’s a lot of change, and for them to find success across each channel deserves some credit!

Louis So – Lego

Lego is my brand of choice. I got my 1st set of Legos from my parents when I was in kindergarten back in the 70s. Flash forward to modern times, where I can give my daughter her 1st Lego set years later. And, of course, it was nice, given that this was the 1st Lego set I bought for one of my own.

Lego continues to give us opportunities to build and foster our own imagination. Every block we touch is special, and we continue to build & tear them down repeatedly. Each Lego block allows our memories of imagination in the past, present, and future to visit us again. Lego brings us together, and it doesn’t matter where we tend to use them. Whether we build on the family dining table, on a car trip, on the living room carpet, a hospital bed with our kids, parents, grandparents, or friends, there will always be a place for Legos. Legos give us a way to heal, to love, to share, to collaborate, and most importantly, imagine.

The brand doesn’t stop at home either, as Lego continues to evolve into tons of activations. Legoland theme Park, Lego House, Lego Discover Center, Lego Retail Store, Lego Clothing, Lego life, Lego Education etc.. you get the point.

Got a brand you’d love to share with us?

Send us a message and share some insight into your inspirations.

Pop-Ups as a Retail Experience Lab

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Pop-up shops have become a cure-all in retail business strategy over the past few decades. If done right, pop-ups benefit everyone involved, making them a no-brainer for many brands. Since they began popping up, we have watched them evolve as retail hubs, bolster marketing strategies, and even improve landlord-tenant relationships.

Revolutionizing Retail Hubs

Pop-ups started out as experimental, unique spaces for brands to test specialized customer experiences. Today, they’re revolutionizing street location shopping. Retail hubs have become modular and ever-changing; new, exciting businesses are constantly opening and revolving through these areas—making for a fun, fresh visit every time. Cities big and small have seen pop-ups appear in their suburbs or smaller neighborhoods, not just prime shopping districts.

Landlords and rental agencies have become open to shorter lease terms than have been traditionally available in retail spaces. These leases can be prepared quickly and are less-burdensome for the tenants.

Some spaces and agreements can be shared, cohabitated stores that rotate out regularly. These businesses can plan weeks or months to occupy the given space, execute their pop-up, then clear out for the next business. These shared environments work great for small business coalitions and artists especially, as they can offer lower rates with longer lease terms (offering the chance for multiple pop-ups over the lease term). This creates a win-win situation for landlords and tenants alike.

Striking Marketing Gold

Pop-ups are a goldmine for meaningful, interactive marketing for a brand or product experience that people want to share on social media. The idea is for shared content around the pop-up to create brand awareness and drive traffic to the pop-up location. Everyone wants to see fun, different shopping experiences, and consumers are apt to share. Executing a good pop-up is guaranteed to result in a wealth of valuable word-of-mouth marketing. A pop-up introduces the brand to people who otherwise might not have had it on their radar. The “exclusivity,” or more so the limited time aspect of a pop-up, amplifies consumer interest. Add this to the social media buzz, and you have created the perfect recipe for increasing brand awareness—the main goal of a pop-up.

Pop-ups are also a great way to experiment and test markets, consumer targets, specific locations, product, experience, and more. They offer total brand control and maximum brand exposure. Watching the ways in which consumers shop in a pop-up or how they respond to different experiences can give great insight into what works best for the brand in a given market. Working on the ground of a pop-up, employees interact directly with the customer base. These physical interactions with the brand are beneficial to a new retail business, making pop-ups an ideal business strategy for small businesses or new businesses entering the retail space perhaps after solely operating online.

Good for All Involved

We have seen all the ways pop-ups can benefit the businesses who execute them, but how do they benefit landlords and consumers? A pop-up could bring awareness to surrounding businesses, driving in-bound traffic. Say a shorter lease is about to expire, the landlord could openly advertise the space for rent at a pop-up event and receive far more exposure than if they were to run ads elsewhere. Pop-ups also assist landlords by filling vacant spaces quickly. Businesses might be able to get good deals on rent while the landlord fills their properties. These new businesses bring in money to the area and the public benefits from these ever-changing, interesting pop-up experiences.

Pop-Ups Actualized

Most brands have been taking full advantage of the benefits pop-ups offer, with countless remarkable experiences opening over the past few years, enticing the public to visit brand-curated spaces.

Lone Design Club works with independent brands to bring conscious consumerism-focused pop-ups to spaces around London. These pop-ups include layered experiences, such as vibrational sound meditation, professional panels on a variety of topics and industries, and community networking.

Ikea opened a “play cafe” in 2017 to rethink the way we use and view our kitchens. People could come in, enjoy some of their famous Swedish meatballs and play games with their friends and families.

Casablanca, a Paris-based luxury brand, held a travel/airport-themed pop-up within Selfridges, furnished with all the bells and whistles of an airport terminal gate. The popup let customers explore and discover merchandise set throughout the space while allowing Casablanca to test a physical retail store for the brand.

Many other luxury brands have been able to invest in the pop-up economy and are finding ways to evolve the landscape. In July 2022, Hermes held a gym-inspired pop-up in LA with live fitness classes, lifestyle-inspired merchandising, cocktails, live DJs, and more. These pop-up spaces give brands the endless freedom to curate specialized experiences to inspire, educate, entertain, or simply interact with guests. The L.A. experience is just one of several HermesFit popups around the world including Brooklyn, Tokyo, Paris, Bangkok, and more.

Here to Stay

Don’t expect to stop seeing them anytime soon, as modern pop-up culture has taken the retail world by storm and proven its value to retail strategy. Pop-ups are here to stay and are becoming more valuable as part of the retail ecosystem. They have revolutionized retail hubs and have benefitted all involved.

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