The real thing


The increase popularity of the ‘virtual space’, social networking and the presence of the brand in the digital arena has been a wake up call for retail marketers – that the physical presence of a retail space is something that needs to be celebrated and reinvented. The newly relaunched Levi’s flagship store in Regent Street is a perfect example.

The front of the store has been given over to a gallery space called ‘Origin’ which apparently will only ever be used as a curated space. The debut display consists of gallery quality portraits of the London craft workers, portfolio of their work and audio content of each of them talking about their craft and affinity to the Levi’s brand.

Thumbs up to the shop-gallery idea – not only does it speak the language of the young customers who are more and more drawn to the arts (look at the popularity of the likes of National Portrait Gallery and Photographers’ Gallery and how the art gallery space has become more resembling a ‘mall’), it also captures the multi-platform consumption behaviour of the modern consumers; they shop, they contemplate, they socialise, they network, they blog all at the same time. What would work best, I think, is to leverage the ‘real’ experience and extend it to the online and digital space to create an ‘always-on’ total brand engagement. Joe Thomas reported on Marketing Magazine (23.03.2010, that the 18 craftsmen and craftswomen across the art, music, performance and catering sectors will also represent the brand in press and outdoor ads.

Of course it is not at all revolutionary – Selfridges had already explored this arena for a number of years with their shop window turned ‘gallery’ space, in-store cultural events such as ‘Bollywood’ and their very successful curated ‘space’ at the basement that had staged exhibitions from street art to their own 100th anniversary display. The original Colette store at Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris and the Dover Street Market in London had taken concept store to another level by creating themed floors almost resembling the way how an art gallery is presented. Over the other side of the globe, shopping centres in Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore are still the real ‘social networking site’ for the youngsters.

A physical space creates stories and changes consumers’ perception in a much more compelling way than any digital space, an effect that may not necessarily be easily measured or quantified but is certainly much more enduring and shall we say….real.

Photo by Louie Chow