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By Steve Penney, Senior Account Executive

The retail industry seems to be in perpetual flux. Consumers now shop for an authentic experience almost as much as the latest pair of trainers. So, how are designers helping to reshape the way we experience physical retail spaces, build customer relationships, and put on a show?

This week, we joined YCN at Napapijri‘s new store to hear just how a pop-up without any product and just 8% brand awareness in London, generated over four million consumer interactions via social media in just six weeks.

When the Italian premium casual-wear brand, famous for their Skidoo jacket, set its sights on the UK market, designers Gemma Ruse and Xavier Sheriff of StudioXAG needed to think carefully about how to introduce the brand to the switched on Shoreditch community.

They say bricks and mortar retail is dying but, as Gemma says, “if you look at brands born in the digital age, they are the ones flourishing on the high street”. The truth is, stores no longer represent the full consumer journey, instead New Retail uses shops as epicentres for brand awareness; it reaches customers online first, entices them in store to test the product, and then return home to purchase it online.

StudioXAG designed a social engagement strategy for Napapijri that would root the new store in the neighbourhood – authentically. Phase one was all about engagement, not selling, establishing Napapijri’s position as a brand invested in the community. The space was used to host über cool events with local independent music, film and mixed media creatives, becoming the underground social landmark.

“Initially we were going to add product but we realised it would impact the overall experience and compromise authenticity”, said Jason Lowdon, Head of Creative and Visual for Napapijri, “we didn’t want to bring a brand to the UK and say, “ok, come and get us”.

Phase two looked at the consumer journey, introducing the brand alongside their products but still focussing on experience. Huge format banners covered the façade of the store and proudly announced Napapijri’s arrival in the UK.

In its current phase, you’ll find a product range curated for local customers based on local trends with mega-instagrammable corrugated mirror chrome walls offset at different angles *Click* though the full range can be browsed via iPads in-store (and, of course, received by next-day delivery). Essentially, the store retains its social origins – at its heart is a community space, with seating and phone charging stations, that can be reconfigured and set up for a flash DJ set in minutes.

Shoppers aren’t just consumers anymore – they’re something closer to tourists. So, designers and retailers alike need to think carefully about creating spaces to bring memorable experiences to audiences and deliver what is fast becoming a brand’s most valuable asset – its experience.







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