As the pandemic recedes into history, the shock waves have started to settle andit is clear that physical retail is back with a vengeance and looking better than ever. The old basics of surprise and delight through architecture, design and merchandising have been enhanced with a real investment in playful creativity and experimentation.
Whether in a flagship, pop up or Mall, Art is now an established tool to turn products into icons, and stores into must-see destinations. More importantly, the best retail works to elevate functional transactions into genuine experiences, through expert service, curated ranges and personalisation.
Hospitality is back as a way to drive footfall and interest, with destination restaurants inside fashion flagships and independent food retail transforming a traditional sector by combining retail with food to go and instore dining.
Malls are reinventing themselves as incubators of independent brands and community lifestyle spaces with food and entertainment at their heart. Digital is taking its rightful place as a storytelling tool and a facilitator of better customer service.
Let us take you on a journey through our annual top 10 favourite post pandemic retail spaces around the world…
10. Mall of Netherlands, The Hague
Westfield Mall of the Netherlands is Europe’s most glamorous new shopping centre and is a perfect example of the future evolution of the mall.
Where Westfield malls in the UK have suffered with the closure of Debenhams and House of Fraser, Mall of the Netherlands does not house any major department stores and instead takes a more innovative, sustainable approach that cements the scheme into the local community.
Alongside superb shopfront and centre design, it also brings food to the heart of the scheme. Featuring Albert Heijn XL and Jumbo supermarkets as anchor stores, Eet Theatre is a spectacular foodcourt celebrating the best street food brands in the Netherlands.
Our favourite concept however is Fresh; an entire district of independent food retailers, each of whom feature hospitality as well as traditional retail.
Another innovation is the Gallery; a district of pop up retail with open storefront design that really breaks the mould.
9. Marks & Spencer, Stevenage
With the collapse of Debenhams and House of Fraser, predicting the end of the department store is definitely premature given the fabulous new concept from Marks & Spencer which unites food and fashion into one stylish space.
Located on the site of the old Debenhams store of the future at the Roaring Meg Retail Park in Stevenage, outside London, this new M&S concept features sophisticated design from Dalziel & Pow, Whippet and the inhouse team.
The 75,000 sq ft store features the glorious food renewal design, first seen at Clapham & Southampton, alongside a brand new look for fashion, beauty, kids and home.
There’s also a 174 seat cafe and stand-alone opticians. There is a renewed focus on visual merchandising and curated departments, which combine great display and communication alongside charming service elements, such as ‘meet the team’ and ‘outfitters favourites’ in Lingerie.
Service has been streamlined with self service tills and combined click and collect and fitting rooms.
This is the bold new face of M&S.
8. Donnybrook Fair, Dublin
Donnybrook Fair is a world class food hall and restaurant, in Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin. The food offer is all about expert food theatre and high quality convenience solutions; from the craft butcher and fishmonger who also prepare fresh, oven ready meals to the pizza and food to go chef. The Loft restaurant offers all day dining.
With brand design from Household and interiors from Millimetre Design, the concept sits in a series of converted brick workers cottages with a stylish contemporary barn extension.
The design incorporates many original features giving it a unique flavour.
Donnybrook Fair is owned by Irish food wholesaler, the Musgrave Group, who also own SuperValu and Centra. The brand was founded originally in Donnybrook over 20 years ago but was acquired in 2018 by Musgrave for €25 million.
The opening of the flagship store in Dundrum, brings the chain’s footprint in Ireland to six shops, five now in Dublin and one in Wicklow.
This flagship store elevates the brand with its sophisticated use of materials, gorgeous merchandising and sense of theatre.
7. SKP-S, Xian
Art meets Retail at the amazing new SKP-S in Xian, China, designed by UK agency Sybarite. The scale of investment and imagination here is quite simply staggering and shows just how experiential retail can be.
SKP (Shin Kong Palace) in Xian is the world’s largest luxury department store, at 250,000 sqm over 20 floors, with more than a thousand international and domestic brands.
SKP-Select is a separate creative concept that takes the entire 4th floor of the centre, over 20,000 sqm – bigger than most department stores.
The concept is a follow up from the Beijing original that launched in 2019 with the theme ‘Digital Analog Future’ and humans colonising Mars. Here, the theme is ‘Last Earthling’ with a return to future Earth.
A 60m hexagon time tunnel connects to ten branded spaces including Prada, and Rick Owens.
The space theme continues with The Sky Port, where satellites are docked for repair. We love the surreal playful creativity and imagination in action.
6. Wow, Madrid
Wow is a new concept department store that blends the physical and digital into a surreal artistic customer journey.
This first store opened in the former Hotel Roma on Gran Via, Madrid in May 2022.
The 8 floor, 5,500 sqm store has been designed by Barcelona architecture practice External Reference, under the creative control of founder Carmelo Zappulla. Each floor has a unique theme, spanning technology, beauty, fashion, sneakers, gastronomy and home.
The most striking features are the pink mannequins on the Ground Floor, referencing Italian Classical sculpture and set in a Neo Classical shell with digital elements.
This playful design theme continues throughout the space, with colourful mannequins and striking use of texture and colour.
Digital elements fuse with the physical, both in the choice of brands stocked, some of which are digital native, and with interactive elements such as responsive floors and game simulators.
This is the department store as a brand playground.
5. Lynk & Co, Düsseldorf
Ever since we first spotted the Lynk & Co Club in Amsterdam a few years ago, we have loved this disruptor car brand, founded by ex Volvo employee Alain Visser, in Sweden in 2016. Lynk & Co reinvents the car showroom as a social ‘Club’ with retail and hospitality at its heart.
With 11 Clubs, in Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and 2022 openings in Spain and Italy, its newest location is here in the Fashion district in Old Town Düsseldorf, opened in February 2023. Lynk & Co has an innovative subscription model for its brand and a creative approach to retail, which is all about sustainability and uplifting the local community.
Alongside a lone car display, the Lynk & Co Club features a coffee bar, meeting rooms, and a retail offer that has a carefully curated selection of cool products from independent brands. These range from fashion and note books to dog bowls.
Every Club is different, inhabiting iconic buildings and installing playful design elements such as the Champagne Fitting room, Forest Meeting room and melting Lounge.
4. Dior Flagship, Paris
Where Paris is the home of luxury retail, the newly refurbished Dior at 30 Avenue Montaigne has to take the crown as the world’s most amazing luxury flagship. Home to Dior since 1946, the beautiful Neoclassical townhouse has been reimagined by star architect Peter Marino as a 100,000 sq ft living museum to the brand.
With more than 100 different materials used, traditional luxury design cues have been energised by natural and artistic elements, including artworks by various contemporary artists from around the globe. There are also three lush gardens created by Belgian landscape designer Peter Wirtz.
Highlights of the design include a grand swirling staircase with a backdrop of suspended designs and a towering rose sculpture that stretches through the floors.
Dining options include Monsieur Dior, by chef Jean Imbert, La Patisserie Dior and La Suite Dior.
The complex is completed by La Galerie Dior, a thematic exhibition located next door that celebrates the brand.
3. Tin Building, New York
New York has a stunning new food destination; branded the Tin Building by Jean Georges, a marketplace dining concept from Star New York chef restaurateur Jean George Vongerichten.
The Tin Building is a glorious $200 million, eight year restoration of the historic Fulton Fish Market, which opened in 1907 and closed in 2005, by developers Howard Hughes Corporation.
With gorgeous interior architectural design from Roman and Williams and visual merchandising master planning for the retail scheme from London agency Cada Design, this impeccably detailed 53,000 sq ft marketplace features a curated selection of speciality foodstuffs and confectionery, alongside a caviar bar, butcher, fish and cheese mongers.
Tin Building has six full service restaurants; from the House of the Red Pearl Chinese, to Seeds & Weeds vegetarian.
There are also six fast casual outlets, three bars, including a beer garden, and private dining. South Street Seaport is back on the map!
2. LV Dream by Louis Vuitton, Paris
Paris is now the global home of luxury, with the grand reopening of the gorgeous Samaritaine and the array of fabulous flagships along the Champs Elysees and Avenue Montaigne. It is no coincidence that Bernard Arnault is now the world’s richest man as LVMH continues to expand and innovate.
However, of all the great retail in Paris at the moment, it is the LV Dream pop up that is the most charming customer experience, combining museum, gift shop, cafe and chocolaterie into one beautifully designed, immersive space.
Located in the old Belle Jardinière department store on the banks of the Seine, opposite Samaritaine, this year-long pop up opened in December 2022 as a celebration of Louis Vuitton’s 160 year heritage. The free exhibition features LV artistic collaborations across nine themed rooms.
Upstairs, a stylish gift store sells a cool range of leather goods, perfumes and accessories, whilst the Cafe and Chocolaterie features culinary creations from Cheval Blanc star winning pastry chef Maxime Frederic.
Book your free tickets online now before you miss it!
1. Victor Churchill, Melbourne
When the first Victor Churchill opened in Sydney in 2009, Anthony Bourdain called it ‘the most beautiful butcher shop in the world’.
Now the family-owned, independent, craft butcher has opened a second store, in Armadale Melbourne, which takes the concept even further with the addition of a fresh grocery and restaurant with seating for 12 and a wine sommelier for paired dining.
Designed by Loop Creative, the 250 sqm store cost $3million and is a superb study in the stylish use of materials and lighting to create this ‘Bulgari of Butchers’, where the craft of real butchery and dry aging becomes a customer show.
The design and branding is world class, but it is the quality of produce and expertise behind it that gives the concept its strength.
The name Victor Churchill is a combination of owner Victor Puharich and Churchill Butchers, founded in 1876. The business is a perfect example of how traditional retail businesses can reinvent themselves as theatrical hospitality spaces for the 21st Century.